The Reasons Your IT Admin Is Terrified Of Your Smartphone

Feb 17, 2015

The Reasons Your IT Admin Is Terrified Of Your Smartphone

BY John DeWolf

Cybersecurity

Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices are indispensable for many employees these days, but they can prove terrifying for IT administrators and security managers. Mobile devices leave the friendly confines of your local network and can connect via cell network, Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth to a dizzying and unpredictable array of devices and systems—exposing users and data to all sorts of unexpected hacker attacks. Below are five things all IT admins should teach their users about mobile device security in an effort to reduce the amount of scary situations!

Every smartphone or tablet has a lock screen. Use it. Always.

You smartphone or tablet is designed for quick, easy access to all your data. No one wants to have to log into their Gmail inbox or Facebook account on the go, so smartphone versions of these apps let you stay logged in for weeks at a time. In many cases, the same thing is true for your personal banking app or the app you (almost never) use from your insurance company.

This means that anyone who gets ahold of your phone can probably read your email, raid your bank account and maybe even scroll through medical history without ever needing to know a single username or password.

This is why your smartphone or tablet has a lock screen—the setting that makes you punch in a PIN number or connect a pattern of dots before you can use your phone. It’s not just there to be annoying; it’s there to keep a pickpocket (or your kids) from snatching your phone—and thus everything important in your life that connects to your phone—all in one fell swoop.

If you don’t want to spill all your personal secrets, get robbed or have your identity stolen, use your phone’s lock screen. Set it to turn on the moment your device is idle. Always.

Nobody should borrow your smartphone, ever

Your smartphone’s lock screen can’t keep you safe if you turn it off whenever someone asks. This one of the oldest tricks in the book: ask to borrow someone’s phone to make a call, and then step away for “privacy.” What appears to be a simple act of kindness is in fact the easiest way for someone to read your emails, texts, calendar or any other private list or personal information kept on your phone.

Here’s a quick tip: if you wouldn’t let someone borrow your wallet, they shouldn’t be allowed to borrow your smartphone or mobile device.

Text messages follow the same dos and don’ts as email

Everyone has heard a raunchy comedy routine about the jealous spouse who wants access to your text message history to see if you’ve been cheating. What’s interesting is that so many of us innately understand the privacy issues around text messages, but fail to realize that text messages are just another version of email you get on your phone.

Just as with email, you shouldn’t accept gifts from strangers.

Don’t reply to texts from people you don’t know. (Not even the old “reply S to stop these messages.”) Don’t follow links in texts from people you don’t know. Don’t download pictures or video or any other files via text from people you don’t know. That’s a great way to get your phone hacked.

If you don’t recognize the number, just delete the text and move on.

Phone calls follow the same dos and don’ts as email

Here’s where many of us drop the ball on smartphone security: actual live voice calls.

Odds are, the mobile number you have today was a mobile number five, 10 or even 20 years ago. (Yes, mobile phones are that old.) Con artists and hackers can buy or steal lists of mobile phone numbers and just randomly dial them to see who is gullible enough to answer. Once you’ve answered, the hacker knows that the number is still in use and that the phone belongs to someone who’ll answer calls from strangers.

Welcome to the shortlist for future scams and hack attacks.

(The dialing software can detect when voicemail answers a call, and the scam artists drop off to avoid paying call charges as soon as they can. Letting the call roll to voicemail is pretty safe. If the call is from a legitimate person with a number you don’t recognize, they’ll leave a message that identifies themselves and you can call them back.)

Again, if you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer. Let voicemail handle it.

Backup everything on your smartphone or tablet

Android smartphones and tablets, iPhones and iPads all have basic backup systems. Lose your phone, and more or less all the contacts and pictures you saved on the device can be downloaded from Google or Apple. That is, if you have those backup settings turned on. Lesson one is make sure you have all the backup features available for your phone turned on.

So, in review: Enable your smartphone’s lock screen; no one you wouldn’t trust with your wallet gets to borrow your smartphone; don’t reply to, accept download in or follow links found in strange text messages; don’t answer phone calls from numbers you don’t know, and always use your phone’s backup features. Follow these simple steps and you’ll keep your mobile device free from viruses, and your personal information away from hackers.

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