NoTW hacking scandal highlights smartphone security

8 Jul 2011

The recent news that up to 4,000 people may have been the targets of phone hacking by a private investigator working for News of The World tabloid newspaper serves as a reminder of the importance of security when it comes to devices such as smartphones.

The loss or theft of a smartphone can feel like the theft of a wallet, as it can contain so much personal information. Such information in the hands of cyber criminals can carry consequences, such as charges on victims’ credit cards to identity theft.

However, implementing simple measures can help protect smartphones from hackers. Here are 10 tips:

  • Regularly change your passwords, and make the passwords difficult to guess. Use a combination of letters and symbols, where possible. It’s been reported that a tabloid newspaper hacked the voicemail of celebrities because they had easy-to-guess passwords.
  • Don’t store sensitive information, like a PIN number, on your smartphone.
  • Always update your phone’s operating system when updates become available, as these can patch up security holes.
  • Keep Bluetooth turned off and hidden when not in use.
  • On a Wi-Fi enabled smartphone, keep that disabled, too, when not in use.
  • Employ a mobile antivirus, such as Kaspersky, and always keep it updated.
  • Delete files, links, calls and messages from anyone you don’t know. Delete spam, too.
  • Only download apps from their original store/trustworthy source (eg, the Apple App Store, the Android Market). When downloading an app, pay attention to the permissions it asks for, such as access to your location.
  • Stay away from pirated apps, as they can serve as open invitations to hackers.
  • Always log out of a web service when you have finished using the service.

These tips can not only help protect smartphones from hackers, but from viruses, as well.