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Prevent Your Smartphone from Being Hacked

What are the signs that your phone has been hacked?

Today's smartphones can do MORE than computers did 30 years ago, and can do more than some of today's laptops, at least in terms of versatility. That's great news for those of us who have active online lifestyles.

But there's bad news to go with it as well—hackers are now targeting smartphones to cause all kinds of trouble. There are an estimated 2 billion smartphones in the world and most of them store, or have links to, the users' personal information. That's too large of a juicy target for hackers to ignore. Their dirty work can target your smartphone's....

  • Text messages
  • Facebook and other social media apps
  • Banking and shopping
  • Email messages

Has your smartphone already been hacked?

It's possible that your smartphone might have already been hacked. Here are a few signs:

  • You notice apps opening by themselves
  • The battery drains much faster than normal
  • You've seen unusual charges on your wireless bill

Take steps to keep your phone safe.

Don't wait to be a victim. The smartphone safety tips below can help you keep your phone and its contents out of the hands of hackers. Learn them and pass this advice on to your friends and family.

1. Lock your phone.

All phones have a password protect capability, but not everyone uses it. They should. But don't just set a password; change it regularly, which means about every three to six months. And be sure to lock your phone when you're not using it! Some phones have lock "patterns" instead of codes, which might be an easier alternative, with all the passwords you must remember. Use your head...or your face. Because you can unlock your phone using facial recognition—your phone camera recognizes you and unlocks the phone. There's also voice recognition, where your phone needs to hear a unique phrase in your voice, and only yours.

2. Turn on tracking.

You can "lo-jack" your phone, so to speak by enabling its tracking feature if it has one. If your phone gets lost or stolen, you can track its whereabouts. More than that, if you fear it is in the wrong hands, and that a thief might get into your data, you can lock the phone remotely with the tracker app.

3. Update your operating system.

Be sure to get your phone's most current updates. Computer operating systems (Windows for PCs, macOS for Apple), are updated often, between new versions. Phones update their operating system as well, especially to close-up leaks that hackers may have discovered. You can get an update from your phone directly, or you can synch your phone with your computer, to the manufacturer's website to download the latest update. It's a simple way to stay safe.

4. Be careful with apps.

Think carefully before downloading an app! Make sure you're downloading from the App Store or from Google Play, who always verify the authenticity of the apps they're offering. An app-happy smartphone user could somehow be tricked into clicking on an app that looks fun and inviting.

Read the description carefully to know what you're getting into. For instance, if an app asks to link to other applications containing your personal information, don't accept it. Finally, never download apps via text message, which is one way for hackers to infect your device with malware. Only accept links that go to the legitimate app store.

5. Keep your phone with you or locked away.

Thieves steal smartphones all the time! It's the quickest to get a free phone. Don't let them get yours! Don't leave it out in the open in public, such as a restaurant table or a library desk. Do the same even if you're at work, because not everyone walking around your office is necessarily an employee...or necessarily your friend. Keep it locked in a drawer if you must leave it behind.

6. Never open strange texts.

Don't open any texts from strangers, unknown numbers or that seem odd to you. If you open a message, DON'T click on any links in the message. That's how hackers empty their payload...a virus or malware...and that's how they can steal your data. Get into the habit of deleting texts that you simply don't recognize. And once more, do not download any apps via a text message.

7. Be careful around free Wi-Fi.

Be wary of unsecured wireless networks. If you switch from your carrier's Internet service to a Wi-Fi connection, you run the risk of putting your data out there for others to see. Many wireless networks that you might assume are "secured" (hacker proof) are not. When you switch to Wi-Fi, be sure you're actually using the public connection owned by a business. Hackers will go into crowded areas, open their own free wireless "hotspots" using a realistic sounding name. Once you connect, they can, with the right equipment in their possession, steal your private data.

8. Don't forget antivirus protection.

Your smartphone has an operating system, applications (programs) and an Internet browser. It's a computer by any definition, and therefore, it's a prime target for hackers. Your smartphone needs antivirus protection, just like your computer at home. Check with your phone's manufacturer to find out what comes with the phone or what they recommend.

Remember that by following this advice, you're not being paranoid—you're being smart about your smartphone. The steps you put into place today can save you the anguish and anxiety of being the victim of a smartphone thief and a smartphone hacker.

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