Cybersecurity Tips Newsletter
June 27, 2024

Be Phone Smart on Your Smart Phone, Part One

Be Phone Smart on Your Smart Phone, Part One

Smartphones are a necessary part of life, serving as a communication hub, entertainment center and even wallet. More than half of adults in the U.S., and nearly as many children older than 8, own a smartphone. However, with great convenience comes inherent risk. Smartphones are constantly subject to varied and evolving threats from cyberattacks, phishing attempts, malware and privacy breaches; cybercriminals are continuously devising new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in these devices.

To better provide in-depth guidance on best practices for smartphone cybersecurity, this newsletter will be released in two parts.

Our personal data, including sensitive information like passwords and financial details, is also at stake, and staying vigilant and proactive to safeguard our smartphones is of the utmost importance. Follow these simple steps to keep your smartphone secure:

Keep your apps and software updated. Software updates often contain patches for known vulnerabilities, making it harder for cybercriminals to exploit weaknesses in your smartphone's operating system (OS). Enable automatic updates for your smartphone’s OS, as well as apps on your device, to ensure you never miss an important security patch. When you get a notification to update your OS or an app, do so as soon as possible.

Practice basic smartphone safety. Overwhelmed by the detailed security settings for the many features and apps your smartphone uses? Start with the basics. Always keep your smartphone physically secure, and preferably on you, at all times. When charging your smartphone in a public area, stay next to it, and only use your own chargers/cables; malware can be installed on a smartphone with a corrupted cable. Lock your phone with a personal identification number (PIN), robust password, or a biometric security feature, such as facial or fingerprint scanning. Enable “find my phone” settings in the unfortunate event that you lose your smartphone.

Use strong, unique passwords. In the age of data breaches, using strong, unique passwords on all your smartphone apps is of utmost importance. Avoid using easily guessed passwords like "123456" or "password." Instead, opt for complex combinations of letters, numbers and special characters. Creating and remembering unique passwords takes some time and effort, but it is by far the best way to keep your smartphone secure.

Beware of phishing attempts. Phishing remains one of the most common tactics used by cybercriminals to steal sensitive information. Be cautious of unsolicited emails, text messages or calls requesting personal or financial details. Legitimate organizations will never ask for sensitive information, such as your account password, via email or text. When in doubt, verify the authenticity of the request directly with the organization through official channels, such as a phone number posted on their verified website.

Secure all network communications. Public Wi-Fi networks are convenient but inherently insecure. Avoid accessing sensitive information, such as bank accounts, while connected to public Wi-Fi networks. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your internet traffic and secure your connection.

Be mindful of app permissions. When downloading apps, pay attention to the permissions they request. Some apps may ask for unnecessary access to sensitive data or features on your smartphone. Limit the permissions granted to apps, and regularly review and revoke permissions for apps that no longer require them.

As daily use of smartphones continues to increase, so does the importance of prioritizing cybersecurity. By following these tips, you can better protect yourself against cyberthreats and enjoy a safer smartphone experience. Keep an eye out for part two, which will offer a more in-depth look at security features and scams, in mid-July.


Additional Resources

FCC: Smartphone Security

FTC: Online Privacy and Security

CISA: Mobile Device Cybersecurity Checklist