Lose your smart phone and you could have more to contend with
than missed calls and text messages, a lost contact list, and Angry
Birds withdrawal. Anyone who finds it will have an opportunity to
empty your bank account, steal your identity or both.
Smart Phone Safety Tips From a Professional Hacker
Think of your smart phone as part wallet, part computer. If
someone were to access your online-banking or eBay application, for
instance, the funds in your checking account could be gone in
minutes. Thieves could also get information from your e-mail
messages -- as well as reset passwords for your online accounts and
retrieve them from your e-mail account. Or they could use your
contacts for phishing schemes.
Start by using your phone's security settings to lock your screen
with a password. Only 38% of smart-phone owners take that simple,
effective step, according to Javelin Strategy & Research. And
don't use an obvious PIN (such as your birth year) or a simple
pattern to unlock your screen. Hide the phone as you enter the code
if strangers are nearby.
When you finish using your applications, log out. At the very
least, sign out of your banking and payment apps (and any others
that could allow someone to go on a spending spree). And don't
store your log-in information in an app's data-entry fields for
easy access. Even apps that seem harmless could be a treasure trove
for a crook, says Eduard Goodman, chief privacy officer for
Identity Theft 911. The list of connections on your Facebook
account may reveal your mother's maiden name, for example.
If your phone disappears.
You can install a location-tracking app on most smart phones.
Apple's iPhone has the Find My iPhone app built in, but you need to
activate it; apps such as "Where's My Droid" are available for
Android devices. The feature is a big help if, say, you can't
remember where you left your phone. And if it has been stolen,
police may be able to use the app to help track down the thief.
Also, set up your phone so that you can remotely erase its data.
Your wireless carrier may offer this service, and many security
apps include the feature. But keep in mind that a sophisticated
thief may be able to restore the information, says Kevin Johnson,
senior security consultant for Secure Ideas. Your data won't be
lost if it's saved automatically to your Google or iCloud account,
and you can regularly perform backups by plugging your phone into
Malware and more.
Losing your phone isn't the only potential danger. Hackers can
collect sensitive information through malware. Android phones are
particularly susceptible because developers can more easily submit
virus-laden apps. (Google has an open-source market, while Apple
has a rigorous screening process for apps.) Research an app's
developer and read reviews of the app before you download it. If
you receive suspicious-looking text messages, don't reply or click
Some of the big names in antivirus protection offer malware
protection for phones (Symantec's Norton Mobile Security is $30).
But you may want to wait until such mobile software improves, says
Johnson. The programs may slow down your phone and offer little
Using unsecured Wi-Fi and leaving your Bluetooth connection open
are other actions that could leave your phone vulnerable to
hackers. Goodman suggests turning your cell phone off at night to
avoid stealth attacks while you sleep.