Are You As Smart As Your Phone?

January 20, 2015

We call them “smart phones” because they’re capable of doing so much more that making simple calls. Many of them can do lots more — from turning into an emergency flashlight and telling us the time in Rio de Janeiro, to taking photos and even replacing good old plastic credit cards as a payment system.

Great. But precisely because they’re so powerful, they’re also potentially dangerous in the hands of an owner who isn’t as smart as the phone. They contain so much information that could be used and abused if the device falls into the wrong hands, and, of course, they’re also valuable targets for theft in their own right.

The fact is that the smarter phones get, the smarter the owner has to be in protecting their contents. In that context, it’s important to know that not all phones are created equally. In particular, phones which run the most widely-used operating system, Android, are much more vulnerable to malicious software than those on Apple’s iOS devices. This is simply because Apple is the only maker of iPhones and tightly controls the apps that can be installed, whereas Android phones are made by scores of manufacturers and can be more easily accessed by non-official app stores.

To safeguard your phone, makes sure you only use the official providers of software – the iTunes App Store for Apple and Google’s Play Store for most Androids (unless you use an Amazon Fire device). Even then, follow this safety code from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect yourself:

  • Set your phone to lock automatically, when you don’t use your phone for a few minutes.
  • Use different passwords to unlock your phone and for each shopping or financial app. Don’t share your passwords with anyone.
  • Don’t send personal information on a public wireless network in a coffee shop, library or hotel. Wait until you can use an encrypted Wi-Fi network that requires a password.
  • Don’t text or email confidential personal information, and delete any texts or email messages that ask for it. If you must give out personal information, do it only if you type in the organization’s web address yourself and you see signs that the site is secure — either “https” (the “s” stands for secure) or a padlock icon.
  • Connect to Bluetooth carefully. Bluetooth makes it easier for you to connect your phone with other devices. But it can also make it easier for thieves to steal your personal information. Don’t forget to turn off Bluetooth when you’re not using it.