leungchopan/ShutterstockMost of the cell phone privacy debate has focused on our phones’ ability to track our whereabouts. But there are other dangers—like getting hacked—that the average cell phone user would find much more worrisome, if only they were aware of it. The more we rely on our phones to transact our personal financial business, the more we’re all exposed to little-known mobile security pitfalls: everything from your online banking password to your credit card details.
Plug up leaky apps
It’s tough to tell the difference between a good and bad app. Since so many people are creating mobile apps, sometimes we see unsophisticated apps that could seriously compromise your online privacy through bad privacy practices or careless coding. Only download applications from sites you trust (iTunes, the Android Market, Amazon, etc.), and only after checking each app’s rating and reading the user reviews to make sure it is widely used and respected. And whatever you do, never login to apps using social media.
Set a password on your phone
Your online passwords is only as strong as your recovery questions. But without one on your phone, anyone within an arm’s length can start reading your email, text messages or listen to your voicemail. Setting a password is the first line of defense, and it only takes about 30 seconds.
Watch for suspicious links
People are three times more likely to click on a suspicious link from their phone than their PC, according to a recent study. It’s one of the many security scams hackers use. Due to the small size of the screen, it’s harder to decipher whether a site looks legitimate or not. Be wary of suspicious-looking links sent to you in email, over text, or on social media. Entering your personal information on these sites puts you at risk for fraud or identity theft.
Be careful what you do at unsecured WiFi hotspots
Use caution when checking your email on public WiFi (for example, at a local coffee shop). These wireless hotspots transmit your data over the air, so when you enter your password or credit card details while using one of these wireless networks, you run the risk of someone else seeing your sensitive information. These are the other nine times you should never use your credit card.
Keep spyware from watching you
Spyware might sound like something out of a detective story, but it’s much more like something out of a horror story if you end up with it on your phone. Without a password, people can (and do) download spyware onto your phone and track your phone usage, text messages, location and banking activity, among other things, without your knowledge. In the Android Market or iTunes store, search for “mobile security” and download a free app that will stop you from inadvertently downloading viruses onto your device before you do it. Once you’ve done that, read up on other ways to protect your phone from a virus.