Your mobile phone is probably one of your favorite things: it helps you stay connected to your friends and family, provides hours of entertainment and might even wake you up in the morning! For many of us, our phones act like a diary or journal—you may keep your personal thoughts, photos and plans all on one handy device. But because mobile devices are so popular, cybercriminals are now using them to try and steal personal information, money or even take over people’s identities.
But don’t worry—forming good mobile security habits now can protect you from hackers and from expensive or dangerous situations if the wrong person gets ahold of your phone. Follow the 10 steps below to keep your phone and your personal information safe:
Don’t root or jailbreak your device
To root or jailbreak a phone means to hack it to take more control than the manufacturer meant you to have. It can be tempting to try to get around the limitations of the operating system installed on your phone, but this is one area where you shouldn’t experiment. Malware targeting mobile phones often relies on finding modified devices, because they are easier to infect.
Don’t download off-market apps
Finding new places to download apps can be exciting—especially if they come at a significant discount from official app stores! And while some off-market app stores are legitimate, they are often not as well regulated for security and quality. This means that it’s more likely for a cybercriminal to offer a dangerous app for download that could put you at risk.
Use your password power
Your phone probably came with some kind of password protection, whether it’s a pattern you have to trace, a series of numbers you have to enter or the ability to confirm your identity by scanning your fingerprint. But these tools won’t protect you if you don’t have them turned on! Make sure that your password features are enabled and that you choose an easy-to-remember combination that’s not easy for someone else to guess.
Require password approval for purchases
Once you set up a strong password, make sure that it is required for purchasing apps or making in-app purchases. This can help protect you from making purchases without thinking about them and help prevent unauthorized parties (like friends or sibling playing pranks!) from making purchases without your knowledge. This simple step can help save you from expensive surprises when the bill comes due!
Make sure lost and found and remote wipe are set up correctly
Making sure that your phone’s built-in lost and found features are configured correctly is the best way to find your phone if it is ever lost. Take it a step further and make sure that you are also able to remotely delete all of your personal information if it becomes clear that your phone is not going to be recovered.
Never share personal information with strangers
Connecting with new friends online can be lots of fun, but it’s important to remember that not everyone is who they claim to be. Never share personal information like your full name, address or school with someone you don’t know. Seemingly harmless bits of information can be combined to steal your identity or help a criminal find you.
Be a privacy pro
Take a look at the settings of your favorite apps, and make sure that they are configured in a way that protects your personal information. Some social networking sites, for example, can make it easy for people to determine where a picture was taken. If you post a lot of pictures from home, it can be the same as posting your address for all of the Internet to see.
Don’t take or send embarrassing pictures
It may seem like everyone is doing it, but the reality is that taking or sending inappropriate pictures is very risky behavior. If someone sends you pictures that you don’t want or tries to pressure you into sending pictures you aren’t comfortable sending, tell a trusted adult right away. Even apps that claim to delete your photos may never be fully safe from a potential cyber attack that could expose images you thought were kept private.
Never say something with your phone that you wouldn’t say in person
When we’re using our mobile devices, sometimes it’s easy to forget that our words have real-world consequences. If you start getting caught up in teasing, fighting with a friend or otherwise getting carried away, put down your phone and do something else for a little while. If you find yourself frequently engaging in or becoming the target of bullying, ask a trusted adult for some help.
Talk to your parents or a trusted adult if someone is harassing you
If someone is using social media or texting to send you inappropriate, upsetting or threatening messages, talk to a trusted adult right away. Bullies rely on making their victims feel embarrassed, but their power starts to disappear when their behavior is exposed.
About the Author
As a marketing manager at OPSWAT, Stacey Matthews Winn’s focus is creating and curating the content that helps new customers find our products. Stacey is a graduate of UC Berkeley, with a double major in English literature and theater and performance studies.