The Most Common Mobile Security Threats and How to Avoid Them
How many times a day do you think you check your phone? Is it 20, 50, 70? Whatever is the number you estimate, double it and then you might be somewhere close. According to psychologists, people use their smartphones twice as much as they think they do. This is no surprise, given that the convenience of mobile phones has quickly made them our top choice for most everything we do online: browsing, chatting, news reading, shopping, banking and even working.
However, as mobile usage is on the rise, so are the security risks. Identity theft, cyberbullying, tracking, spying, phishing scams and tons of other cyber threats are even more frequent as we carry our devices everywhere we go.
Here are five daily situations where mobile users are especially vulnerable to becoming a victim of cybercrime. If you recognize yourself in any of them, better change your behavior immediately.
1. Connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots
Who doesn't love Wi-Fi? It's free, it's usually fast, and it helps you pass the time or get some work done. More importantly, it's everywhere you need it: at public libraries, coffee shops, shopping malls, trains, hotels, and even on some city streets. However, while being extremely convenient for smartphone users, public Wi-Fi networks are often poorly secured, leaving you extremely vulnerable to all the threats out there. Hackers can set up "evil twin" hotspots to mimic the real ones, they can lure you into malicious websites, or they can steal your sensitive data in many other ways.
The risk is even greater if you are not careful with your behavior. Checking into your work accounts, making financial transactions, sharing your private information via email-these are a few things you should consider not doing when using public Wi-Fi networks.
2. Charging your phone in public ports
You know the feeling: Your phone battery is low, but you need to make an important call and answer a couple of urgent emails. Sure, you can easily find a public charging station while waiting for your plane at an airport. However, be aware that connecting your device to an unknown source is risky, because you never know if the port hasn't been compromised. If so, there's no way to turn back the time and avoid the risk of being hacked.
The next time you need to charge your mobile device via USB, make sure that the computer you are about to connect to is trusted and secure. Or, even better, get yourself a portable charger.
3. Leaving Bluetooth on when not using it.
Keeping Bluetooth on all the time makes it extremely easy for cybercriminals to get access to your device. Once connected to your phone, a hacker may be able to access all your sensitive information, infect your device with malware, or use it to track your movements both on the Internet and offline.
So when you are not using Bluetooth, always turn it off. This will help reduce the chance of unwanted snooping and cyberattacks.
4. Downloading new apps.
Mobile malware is sneaky. Once it gets to your device, it either steals your private data or secretly charges money from your accounts. It's easy for cybercriminals to design malicious software to look like the doppelganger of a popular app and then place it in third-party app stores for innocent Internet users to download. To make sure you are not receiving any malicious software, only download apps from official app stores.
Also, always make sure you don't give your apps too much information. When you install a new app, you can approve certain permissions, such as access to your camera, photos, contacts, etc. While some of these authorizations are obviously necessary for apps to fulfill their functions, many serve other purposes. A photo editor will need to access your photos so you can edit and save them. But you should be wary if such an app also wants to know your location or contacts. Very often, careless users accept all the requests, letting apps access more data than they are supposed to. This could lead to serious security risks.
5. Giving access to children.
Children are especially vulnerable when it comes to online security. The wide variety of threats include huge overspending on game apps, access to inappropriate content, being targeted by aggressive advertising, becoming victims of cyberbullying or being lured into revealing sensitive information.
Make sure you explain to your children the basic, important online security rules, invest in parental control tools, and check what your kids are up to when they go online.
Remember: Once cybercriminals have access to your smartphone, they can use it however they like. They could log into your accounts, purchase things with your credit cards, and expose your private photos or conversations. In the digital world, where security breaches are more frequent than one may think, it is important to learn how to protect yourself.
VPNs to the rescue.
Subscribing to a reliable VPN, a virtual private network service, such as NordVPN, will help you avoid many cyber threats that lurk everywhere you go online. NordVPN encrypts your Internet traffic and hides your actual IP address, so no snoopers or hackers could intercept and steal your private information. What's more, with NordVPN your data stays safe even on public Wi-Fi networks. NordVPN offers easy-to-use apps for the Android and iOS operating systems.
Both applications include all the necessary configurations, so you can download, set up and start protecting your online traffic in minutes.