Best Practices to Protect your Mobile Phone

Malaika Naidu

We all know that cybercrime is a reality and it only growing with every passing day. With the deep penetration of smartphones into major markets across the world, we’re becoming walking-talking targets with high vulnerabilities. Interestingly, we all buy anti-viruses for our laptops and computers immediately after purchasing the device, yet we go our whole lives without protecting our phones.

That too, in 2019, when most of our online interactions happen through our phones. All the sensitive information on our phones such as images, contacts, banking details, email, etc, are just waiting to be compromised. To top it off, this includes GPS data, phone cameras and mics that can be remotely turned on!
You might think that all that can happen is photo leaks or financial fraud through banking apps. But, it’s no longer that simple. With the development in technology, cyber-criminals have also become more efficient, competent and destructive. Such as using your location for stalking!

Some examples of cybercrimes today are cyber-stalking, data leaks, bullying, identity theft and even revenge porn. On a macroscopic level, terrorist organisations regularly use the darknet to communicate. Over the last few years, we have seen some of the largest terrorist organisations using gaming chat rooms to communicate with each other!

Can you completely prevent cybercrime? Absolutely not.
Can you reduce your vulnerability? Easily! Here are some possible measures:

1. Yes, you need a passcode!

You don’t need to get complicated with the pattern and turn it into a maze, but also avoid pins of repetitive numbers like 1111 or the standard diamond shape 2486. Now, a passcode can be bypassed. However, it takes a little bit of skill and time. You don’t need to make the criminal’s job any easier by not even using a passcode!

2. Credit Card and Phone Bill

Regularly check both. Check right now. And then again three days from today. Since these transaction updates come on SMS, we tend to miss notifications because most of us avoid SMSs and only look at them for OTPs. Now with telecom companies starting online wallets, it’s another added vulnerability. Criminals can charge services to your phone number which will reflect directly in your bill amount.

3. Did you read the reviews before downloading that app?

Yes, we understand you really needed that photo editing app. And that game to kill time in meetings. But did you do your due diligence before downloading the application to your phone? Before installing, scroll down and always check the reviews. Then do a quick Google search to make sure no news hits turn up with negative reviews. Apps from untrusted sources often have malware that gets downloaded along with the app. Such malware can steal information, install viruses or even give mirror access to criminals!

4. Wipe-out Old Phones

Short of dipping an old phone in bleach, you need to clean out every single bit of information before selling, recycling or donating an old phone. Factory reset the phone twice if required and make sure you do not forget the memory card inside the phone. Don’t let anyone convince you that they will do it. When the phone leaves your possession, it should feel like a brand-new phone, the scratches aside of course.

5. Security Apps and Anti-Viruses

Security apps scan every app you download for malware/spyware and protect your internet browsing. Some apps even allow anti-theft systems like erasing data if the phone is notified as stolen. Anti-viruses keep tweaking their algorithms to constantly battle threats. Remember, your job is to make it as tedious and difficult as possible for the cyber-criminal to get into your phone!

6. Always, ALWAYS report a stolen phone

File a FIR with your local police station and inform your network provider immediately. Why the police? If the phone is used in any illegal activities, it will not be traced back to you as you have declared the phone out of your possession. Why the network provider? On your request, they will disable your sim, making it impossible for the thief to use the phone for any communication. (Your security app will help prevent him from making any use of the phone itself!)

7. No Net Banking with Strangers!

Really? This should not have to be said to begin with. But please! Do not do any money transactions with unknown individuals. And now with UPI, cybercriminals need even fewer details to commit financial fraud. Remember, as technology and the internet make our lives easier, they also make a criminal’s life easier!

8. STAY UPDATED!!!

On everything. The latest cybercrime threats. The latest software to prevent hacking and viruses. The latest internet scams. The latest malicious apps. Everything. And if your phone prompts an update for the operating software, do it immediately!

Now, if all this seems like too much effort, you can just stop using a phone! Go back to one of those Nokia moonlight type phones. Impossible, right? Then accept reality and act on these 8 very simple steps. Recognise the threat and prepare yourself as best as you can.

Reduce your vulnerability!

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