How did we cope before smartphones were invented? Without mine I’d be late for vital appointments and losing touch with friends. And let’s not forget how easy it is to jog your memory with a sneaky google when you’ve forgotten the name of the lead actor in that film you saw last night.
Online banking and shopping are two more advantages. It so much easier to find a bargain or manage your money now that you can do it while you’re on the go. In fact I can hardly remember the last time I visited my local bank branch now that most transactions can be done quickly and simply online.
Of course there are precautions you should take if you’re accessing bank accounts or using credit cards while you’re out and about. But staying safe isn’t rocket science. Here are a few of the things that I’ve done so I can use my smartphone to browse for bargains and keep on top of my finances, and stay safe while I’m doing it.
Here are a few tips to keep you safe…
Install an antivirus app on your device. If, like me, you’re using your smartphone for nearly everything these days, then this is a vital first step to staying secure. Downloading antivirus for mobile will block nasties like malicious software and spyware, and it’ll add an extra layer of privacy when you’re using your phone. It can even help you track your device if it’s lost or stolen.
Only install financial apps provided by your bank or credit card company. That way you know they’ll be secure. Also, don’t download your banking apps willy-nilly from the web. Only do it via the official store for your operating system.
PIN or password lock your device. OK, so it’s a pain having to type a password when you want to check something quickly, but at least it means that if your device gets stolen someone else can’t access your stuff either.
Use strong passwords. And while we’re on the subject of passwords, make sure each of your accounts is protected with a unique strong password; don’t be tempted to use the same one for everything. You can use a password manager to keep track of them all, and then create one super-strong password to lock everything else. Not sure how strong your passwords are? Have a go at creating them here. Using uppercase and lowercase letters, plus numbers and symbols I turned Gangnam Style into [email protected]@m5ty/£. Apparently it would take 17 billion years to crack that baby.
Keep your phone’s operating system up to date. Whether your smartphone runs Android, iOS or something else, always accept operating system updates immediately to make sure that your device is protected with the latest patches and security updates.
Don’t log in to unsecured Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi networks are a great place for hackers to access to your information, as they’re usually unsecured. Next time you’re out for a coffee, don’t be tempted by the offer of a free online surf. If you log on to a public network and your address bar doesn’t say https, then the connection is unsecure and you’re at risk.
Keep an eye on what the kids are doing when they’re using your device. My son loves playing with my smartphone. Correction, he loved playing with it. Because the day he nearly bought himself a Lego set on Amazon was the day I realised he shouldn’t be using it unsupervised. Either keep tabs of what your kids are doing while they’re online, or buy them their own devices which aren’t connected to online shopping or bank accounts.
Don’t jailbreak your device. Most devices only allow you to download apps from specific stores, like Apple’s App Store. ‘Jailbreaking’ your device will allow you to unlock your smartphone so you can download apps from other sources. However doing this makes your phone less secure, so avoid the temptation and only used approved apps.
Watch out for shoulder surfers. Not all hackers use high-tech equipment to access your personal information. They could simply look over your shoulder as you type your password and remember it. Avoid inputting passwords when you’re in crowded places like commuter trains and restaurant queues.
- License: Creative Commons image source
By Sam Wright
Sam Wright is a business and technology journalist based in Norwich, Norfolk.