Getting a mobile device this holiday season? Protect it like you would your computer

Dec 21, 2011 3:06pm

By Emily Eckland, NCSA Managing Editor of Digital Media

Is a new smartphone at the top of your holiday wish list? Are you planning on giving a tablet this holiday season?

Before you charge up your new mobile device and start downloading apps, you should take a moment to think about cyber safety.

Will you password-protect your phone? Will you bank or shop on your mobile device? Will you store personal information, and keep passcodes on it?

Despite their smaller size, mobile devices are just as powerful and connected as any PC or laptop. And therefore just as vulnerable.

Phones can contain tremendous amounts of personal information. Lost or stolen devices can be used to gather information about you and, potentially, others. 

You should protect your phone and other mobile devices like you would your computer.

But not everyone is.  

A new national study released by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and McAfee shows many Americans aren’t taking extra precautions to protect their smartphones from hackers, malware and other threats because they feel their devices are safe from cybercrime.

While people may feel their devices are safe, data thieves and hackers are continuously evolving their operations to take advantage of user vulnerabilities.

Even though mobile malware incidents are still relatively low in number, smartphones and tablets sales are growing – and cybercriminals are continuing to set their sights on mobile devices.

The first step you can take to protect yourself is to STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

Here are some other ways to protect your mobile device:

Keep a Clean Machine

  • Keep your mobile security software current: Having the latest security software is a primary safety and security measure
  • Automate software updates: Many software programs will automatically connect and update to defend against known risks. Turn on automatic updates if that’s an available option
  • Protect all devices that connect to the Internet: Along with computers, smartphones, gaming systems, and other web-enabled devices also need protection from viruses and malware

Protect Your Personal Information

  • Secure your phone: Use the strongest passcode protection available to lock your phone
  • Secure your accounts: Ask for protection beyond passwords. Many account providers now offer additional ways for you verify who you are before you conduct business on that site.
  • Make passwords long and strong: Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password.
  • Unique account, unique password: Separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cybercriminals.
  • Write it down and keep it safe: Everyone can forget a password. Keep a list that’s stored in a safe, secure place away from your computer.
  • Own your online presence: When available, set the privacy and security settings on websites and apps to your comfort level for information sharing. It’s ok to limit who you share information with.
  • Understand your apps: Review the privacy policy and know what data (location, access to your social networks) on your device an app can access before you download it.

Connect with Care

  • Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots: Limit the type of business you conduct and adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your phone.
  • Protect your $$: When banking and shopping, check to be sure the site is security enabled. Look for web addresses with "https://" or "shttp://", which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information while in transit. "Http://" is not secure.

Be Web Wise

  • Stay current. Keep pace with new ways to stay safe online. Check trusted websites for the latest information, and share with friends, family, and colleagues and encourage them to be web wise.
  • Take control of your technology: Learn how to disable the geotagging feature on your phone at

For more information, visit