6 Ways to Boost Your Smartphone's Security
Your smartphone is a fantastic tool. Where else can you stay in touch with friends, make a work call, manage your checking account, and book a vacation – all while on the go? These portable devices make everyday tasks quick and easy, but they certainly carry with them some risk. After all, they’re often used to enter or view personal and financial information, making them prime targets for identity theft and phone scamming.
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time learn how to avoid identity theft by taking the necessary steps to safeguard your go-to device.
Set Your Passcode and Turn on Auto-Lock
We get it. It may feel like a pain to enter a passcode each time you need to unlock your phone, but this security setting could be crucial if your phone ever falls into the wrong hands. Many phones make it easy for you by using fingerprint or facial recognition.
As an added layer of defense, make sure you set your phone to automatically lock after a brief period of inactivity. Some security experts recommend setting the phone to automatically lock after 30 seconds.
Protect Your Apps and Use Two-Factor Authentication
While your phone’s passcode serves as an important first line of defense, the individual apps/accounts you use for things like shopping, banking, and email should also be protected by strong passwords, which are vital to keeping your personal and financial information secure.
A strong password should have at least 10 characters, including letters, numbers, and special characters. It’s best to avoid using names of people, birthdays, and everyday words because a hacker can easily guess them if they have enough information on you.
You should also use two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security to the accounts you access by apps in case a criminal ever gains access to your login credentials. With two-factor authentication, users may be required to enter a randomly generated code sent by text or email to prove that the person accessing the account is really them.
Be Cautious with Public Wi-Fi
Many of us take advantage of the free Wi-Fi offered by businesses, schools, and other public places. It’s convenient, but it’s also much riskier than a private, password-protected network. If you’re not careful, public Wi-Fi can open you up to hackers who exploit the weaker security that usually comes with public hot spots.
Some people opt not to use public Wi-Fi at all. But if you do, never do your banking or send sensitive information through a public hot spot. If you need to log in to your mobile banking app to quickly transfer funds or check your balance, switch off public Wi-Fi and use your cellular signal for extra security.
Don’t Miss an Update
Developers constantly update their apps to make them easier to use and patch up security vulnerabilities, so you should always make sure you use the most recent version of your apps and operating system. Check frequently to see if there are any updates available, and don’t put off updates if you’re alerted that one is available for a specific app or for your smartphone’s operating system.
Plus, you should delete apps you haven’t used in a while. Leaving apps you no longer use on your phone can create another point of access for hackers. And, consider searching your phone’s app store for well-reviewed mobile security apps that scan your device for malware.
Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
Some criminals will go to great lengths to get your information. If you use your phone in a public place – like most people do – make sure to pay attention to the people around you. So-called “shoulder surfers” may try to take a peek at your phone as you enter details like usernames and passwords.
Don’t Fall for Phishing
Phishing scams can come in the form of phone calls, text messages, and emails. Typically, the scammer poses as a company you know and trust to try to trick you into giving some critical information, such as your online banking details, your Social Security number, or other account information. You may receive a phony request to “update” or “confirm” your account details.
Don’t reply, click links, or download attachments if you get a suspicious email or text like this. If you’re unsure of the message’s authenticity, contact the company directly (via the phone number on their website) to confirm or to let them know that a scam is being perpetrated under their name.
As a reminder, American Heritage Credit Union – and other legitimate businesses and organizations – will never call, text, or email you to ask for sensitive information like your account details or login.
Protecting Yourself & Your Devices
At American Heritage, we’re serious about protecting your accounts and personal information. We know that many of our members love the convenience of managing their money from their phone, so our digital products were developed to help you do so safely and securely. For example, we use multi-factor authentication to help prevent unauthorized account access, and our Mobile Teller App is equipped with great features to help you monitor and protect your cards and accounts, right from your phone.
Want to learn more about how to avoid identity theft? Check out this course from American Heritage U.