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Cellphones are an integral part of daily lives. There is a thrill accompanying getting a new cellphone which is undeniable. Cybersecurity professionals however would prefer consumers to take a harder look at this pivotal juncture in their digital inventory. Several key dynamics around optimizing security when getting a new cell phone are discussed below.

Strategic Use:

It’s important for cellphone users to decide exactly what functions a new cellphone will be used for before it actually comes in to use. This is a strategy that is often overlooked, however it can have a significant impact on what type of information may eventually be compromised on a given device. For example, a person may decide to not access bank accounts and one major social media account from their new smartphone. This strategy will give cybercriminals a greater hurdle. Another strategy often overlooked because of financial implications is keeping the old phone instead of trading it in or selling it. Once the new phone is in service, the old phone can be factory reset, wiping out all the old data. The older phone can then be used for sensitive activities such as banking.

Security App Initiative:

It’s easy for consumers to get excited about all of the new features and applications available on a new phone, but they often overlook installing a security app. A security app is an application that will scan for malware and also can scan new apps for safety before they are installed (1). Those two basic features should be a baseline, however there are also security apps that will help locate a lost cell phone and can even wipe it remotely if it cannot be retrieved. The simple step of adding one of these apps can stop cybercriminals dead in their tracks.

App Danger:

One of the largest risks a cell phone user can take is on downloading applications. Extreme caution must be used when downloading apps. Common sense also applies when giving permission for applications to access phone data. Not every app needs the permissions it asks for to function properly (1). For example, some apps gather data about your whereabouts. These apps literally can track consumer’s movements every few seconds and then sell it to companies hungry for that extra edge (3). For a more in depth look at severity issues regarding consumer data read Cybersecurity Frontier Series: Customer Data.

Mobile VPN:

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are an important security tool commonly used at home or in office settings. A VPN allows a user to mask their location and encrypt their information. Unfortunately, many consumers do not use this same tool on their cell phones even though VPNs are readily available for mobile devices as well. Using a mobile VPN can make an otherwise dangerous digital situation like using public Wifi quite harmless.

Summary:

Cellphones are a major vulnerability. People interact with the world on them often very casually yet exposing critical information. The same cellphones which are so treasured often go unprotected. Great lengths are often taken to protect traditional computers, but not the mobile computers which are used more frequently. Cybersecurity experts agree that taking the initiative through these simple steps and strategies for new cellphones, consumers will put themselves in the safest position.

For more articles like this check out Careers in Cybersecurity’s blog.

References:

  1. https://www.rd.com/advice/saving-money/cell-phone-security/
  2. https://www.webroot.com/us/en/resources/tips-articles/how-to-prevent-phone-hacking-and-sleep-like-a-baby-again
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/10/business/location-data-privacy-apps.html