Nowadays, having access to data on the go is as ubiquitous as having access to water or a jacket. Yet despite the convenience of being able to log onto the Internet from your smartphone from nearly any location, there are certain risks regarding smartphone security that should concern everyone using a mobile device in public. Namely, free public Wi-Fi networks make us vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches.
According to TechRepublic, Android ransomware increased 137.8% from the first quarter to the second quarter of 2017. A benchmarking study of the cybersecurity practices of global companies offers insight into cyber threats. The study, called The Cybersecurity Imperative, was released by ESI ThoughtLab and WSJ Pro Cybersecurity and was sponsored by Security Industry Association (SIA), along with other partners. The study cites the following leading cyberthreats in 2018, which include malware, phishing, ransomware, viruses, and attacks from apps.
Wireless network hotspots, which are often provided by coffee shops, hotels, or airports, are significantly less secure than our private connection at home or in the office. Tech-savvy cybercriminals can easily hack into public networks and attempt to steal or even lock and extort confidential information for financial gain. One option to prevent cybertheft is to not use public Wi-Fi, however, it’s often hard to pass up. Therefore, in order to use hotspots safely, it pays to follow these simple tips to ensure you’re not an easy target for cybercriminals.
Use a Reliable Anti-Malware
Since we have already decided that it’s vital to have reliable cybersecurity protection on all our devices in order to detect, quarantine, delete and report any type of suspicious activity, it is important to continue applying this rule when we are on the go. According to cybersecurity leader Kaspersky, there were a more than 42.7 million mobile malware attacks in 2017 and malicious mobile software threats were found in more than 230 countries worldwide, making travelers especially vulnerable to cyberattacks.
Therefore, to ensure our smartphones are secure, having a reliable anti-malware is a no-brainer. The software performs routine scans of your smartphone or mobile device and updates itself with the latest security protection against cyber threats.
Always Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, ensures you can use the Internet safely because it disguises your online identity. Rather than browsing the Internet openly by using a coffee shop, restaurant or hotel’s free Wi-Fi network, use VPN software with encryption technology to safeguard your identity and ensure you are browsing anonymously. This will protect you from those who want to spy on what you’re doing online.
A reliable VPN for smartphone automatically changes your IP address to conceal your actual location. Fundamentally, a VPN makes your smartphone or mobile device as well as the information within it undetectable and therefore inaccessible to anyone who may be on the same Wi-Fi network as you. Not only will hackers not be able to pilfer your data, but they also won’t be able to infect your device with ransomware or other malware.
Be Careful Where You Connect
It is crucial to be sure you’re joining a secure Wi-Fi connection. Often, we connect simply by instinct. For example, if a network is called HotelFreeWiFi, we may innocently assume that it is the hotel’s network, yet it can often be a calculated “man-in-the-middle” attack employed by hackers to fool users into logging in in order to steal their information.
According to the Pew Research Center, 54% of internet users use public Wi-Fi networks, and many perform sensitive activities such as online shopping (21%) or online banking (20%) in public. Therefore, when logging in on the go, ensure your Wi-Fi network is secure and not a rogue network. Double check with the barista or receptionist to find out the actual name of the coffee shop or hotel Wi-Fi network.
Remain Alert On-The-Go
It is also important to be selective about what you’re looking at on your smartphone while in public. Using free Wi-Fi for reading the news or streaming music is one thing but be careful when you’re performing sensitive tasks like reading your email, banking, or online shopping. When performing these activities, you find a secured connection in an Internet browser that has a padlock or the letters HTTPS or SSL in the URL window, rather than HTTP.
Also, for added security, try to perform sensitive operations from your own personal hotspot by using your data plan for things like email, shopping or banking.
It is also important to back-up your important information and other data at least once a week just in case you lose your smartphone, or your mobile device is stolen. A great solution is to use cloud services and local back-up, like a USB flash drive or external hard drive.
Also, use a strong password, which is at least 7 characters long, has a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, and combines upper and lower cases. Experts say it can also be effective to use a passphrase, such as a line from your favorite song, like “royaltyinsidemydna,” from Kendrick Lamar’s DNA.
Additionally, when possible, choose a two-step verification that requires not just a password to log in, but also a one-time code that is sent to your smartphone in order to confirm it’s actually you using the device. If your smartphone is not set up to do this automatically, download the latest free software updates for the Windows or Mac operating system on your device.
Users should be concerned about smartphone security even if privacy isn’t a top priority for them. A VPN for smartphone or tablet, which unlike your home computer will be using public Wi-Fi access occasionally, either in a coffee shop, airport, or hotel, ensures your data is protected. Public hotspots are not particularly trustworthy, and those that don’t require a password are even more vulnerable to attack. A mobile VPN isn’t just smart, it’s vital.
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