Today's tech threats go far beyond your desktop: Smartphones and even a growing number of internet-connected cars are vulnerable to cyber thieves. And you need more than a password to keep data secure.
"People don't invest in security, because they think attacks only happen to other people," says Robert Siciliano, a security and identity theft expert. That's no longer true. In fact, more than half of Americans experienced cybercrime in 2017, allowing hackers to access private financial information and beyond.
Here's how to protect your smart devices, including your phone:
- Don't ignore updates Installing software updates can seem cumbersome at times, but skipping available updates leaves devices more vulnerable to cyberattack. As hackers refocus their efforts on smart technology, it's even more important to install the latest version and avoid a breach.
- We spend nearly 3.5 hours per day on our phones, so it's tempting to download an app at every opportunity. Protect your data by avoiding custom apps; instead, stick to downloads from verified sources. Apple's App Store and Android's Google Play use a vetting process before allowing apps to be sold on their mobile platforms.
- Stay smart around smishing scams The more that users spend on their mobile devices, the more those devices are targets for scammers. Two common sources include smishing — scams conducted via SMS or text — and phishing, where users get authentic-looking emails that appear to be from their banks or other services. In both cases, block the numbers or the emails; never click or reply back.
- Beware of free Wi-Fi It's tempting to connect your smartphone to free wireless data whenever it's available, but it's not always safe. Unsecured networks — be it at coffee shops or airports — make it simple for hackers to also connect to your device. If you must use an unsecured wireless network, try a VPN tool, such as TunnelBear, to browse the web.
- Think beyond the smartphone Anything with an internet connection - including vehicles, voice-based digital assistants or wearable fitness trackers — are on the radar for cyberthieves. In some instances, they can use the data to detect whether you are home. If you connect in a public place, make sure the websites you use begin with HTTPS.
- Share data wisely Often, apps ask users to input data that can be especially dangerous during a security breach. Avoid sharing birth dates, addresses and other personal information that hackers could use later.
- Prepare for the worst If you lose your smartphone or it is stolen, your personal data may be at risk. Turn on Apple's Find My iPhone or Android's Device Manager so you may track the phone's whereabouts and delete data as soon as possible.