Protecting Your Smartphone From Cyberthreats

Man sitting at table with laptop open while scrolling through phone

Your phone says a lot about you. After all, it’s the place where you shop, bank, connect with friends, and communicate for work. Given all the sensitive info that passes through it—from passwords to financial information—it’s no wonder that your mobile device is a valuable target for hackers and scammers.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so it’s the perfect time to start taking extra steps to protect your favorite device.

1. Think About Your Surroundings
When you’re in public, anytime you use an app that requires a password, such as your mobile banking app, you open the door for “shoulder surfers,” people who discreetly watch what you’re doing on your phone. If they can see where and how you log in, they can use that information themselves. Be mindful of strangers trying to watch what you’re doing on your phone.

2. Protect Your Device With a Strong Password
Many newer phones have biometric options, like fingerprint reading or facial recognition, to unlock your phone quickly without having to type in a passcode, providing another layer of security. Your password protection should be extended to any mobile apps that contain sensitive financial or personal information.

Be sure to log out of your mobile banking, shopping, and similar apps when you have finished your session. By logging out, it helps ensure your session is closed and your data is safe. Outside of your password-protected apps, you shouldn’t store any sensitive information on your phone. That means you should never have passwords, PINs, banking info, or your Social Security number stored elsewhere on your device where they could be discovered if your phone fell into someone else’s hands.

Also, consider using your phone’s security features to add extra protection to your finances and personal info. For example, you can help protect your transactions by adding your debit and credit card to your phone’s mobile wallet. These days, mobile wallets can be used to easily store and protect things like store loyalty cards, concert tickets, and, in some states, even your state-issued ID. Plus, there are several apps to secure your passwords, PINs, and other sensitive info.

3. Keep Your Apps and Operating System Updated
Hackers and scammers work nonstop to find ways past mobile device security. Fortunately, developers update apps and operating systems frequently to address potential vulnerabilities. You can set your phone up to automatically keep the apps and operating system updated, or you can have it alert you when an update is available.

Plus, you should delete any unused apps. It not only frees up room on your device, but it cuts down on ways someone can get information about you. Be cautious of downloading new apps, and always be wary of any app that asks for excessive permissions. Remember, the various app stores can’t guarantee that the available apps are perfectly safe, and some apps can hide malware, or harmful software.

The best way to prevent malware from causing you problems is to use an app that scans and protects against it. Many options are available, so check Apple’s App Store® or the Google Play™ Store for one compatible with your device.

4. Be Wary of Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi can be convenient and provide faster internet access for your phone, but use it with caution. Many experts agree that public Wi-Fi is not very secure and gives hackers easy access to your device. You should never do online banking or send sensitive information over a public hot spot because you never know who is watching. If you can, use your cellular connection and avoid public Wi-Fi.

5. Dump Autofill and Clear Web Browsing History
Your phone has a lot of features designed to make your life easier. For example, you can have your phone autofill form-fill entries with your name, address, phone number, and even passwords. While this makes navigating online easier, it makes it easier for scammers to get the information they need. Turn off autofill to protect your data.

While you’re at it, clear your web browsing history, cookies, and cache regularly. Removing this data prevents someone who may gain access to your phone from using your digital footprint against you.

6. Know the Signs of Spoofing and Phishing
Mobile devices are common targets for scam phone calls, text messages, and emails that use phishing and spoofing techniques designed to trick the recipients into providing sensitive information, such as their online banking login. The best thing you can do is never reply, download attachments, or click on links for such unsolicited communications, even if the sender claims to be a business you know.

If you receive a call or message you’re not sure about, contact the company directly (via their website) to check if the email or phone call is genuine.

Remember, a real business or organization (like your credit union) will never contact you out of the blue and ask you for sensitive information like your account login.

Being Smart About Cybersecurity

Your smartphone can add convenience to your day, but you need to protect yourself and your identity in a digital world.

At USE Credit Union, we take our members’ safety and privacy seriously. Our digital services are designed to bring greater security to your day-to-day transactions, such as by using state-of-the-art encryption, two-factor authentication when logging into online and mobile banking using an unrecognized device, as well as Touch ID® and Face ID® for iPhone users. Additionally, USECU’s credit and debit cards can be easily added to your phone’s mobile wallet for fast, secure transactions on the go—even if you left your plastic at home.

Most importantly, if you believe criminals have targeted your USECU account, contact us right away.

 

 

Mobile and data rates apply when using Mobile Banking. The App Store, Touch ID and Face ID are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. Google Play is a trademark of Google Inc.
This information is provided for educational purposes only. It is the responsibility of each consumer to determine the safety of an app.

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