5 Security Tips for Your Smartphone or Tablet
By Tom Dunlap
Smartphones are everywhere, and with iPads and Android tablets now leading the market, the next generation in mobile computing is exploding in popularity around the world. But the risk of a hacker stealing your sensitive information (or the device itself) has also risen dramatically. Case in point: Last month, several malicious apps invaded the Android market, affecting 260,000 Android-based smartphones and tablets. (Google eventually removed the rogue apps from all devices.)
Here’s how to keep your new gadget safe:
Smartphone and Tablet Security Tip No. 1: Keep tabs on your devices.
If you have an Android-based device, be sure to download a security app that can locate your device if you lose it. For Apple users, get an account with an online locating service, such as Find my iPhone. (It works for iPads too.) The idea behind these services is that the device checks in with the service every so often with the location of the device (from the GPS chip), and you can then use a website or other mobile application to view a map with the location of your device.
Smartphone and Tablet Security Tip No. 2: Set a strong password.
When adding or changing any password, make it a long word with numbers or punctuation marks so it’s difficult to guess. To set up a password on an Android tablet, tap the open arrow to view your apps. Select “Settings,” then “Security,” then “Change Screen Lock.” Choose “Password.” On the iPad, tap “Settings,” then “General Settings.” Continue by opening “Passcode Lock” in the center box of options. Select “Turn Passcode On” and follow the instructions.
Smartphone and Tablet Security Tip No. 3: Look out for fake apps.
A malicious app is dangerous because it can steal all the data from your smartphone or tablet and send out spam. Or, even worse, it can monitor everything you do and capture all your usernames and passwords. “You hear about this more on Android than Apple’s iOS,” says software programmer Daniel Elswick, “mainly because Apple is strict with what apps they allow into the Apple App Store, while the Android Market is more open, so almost any application can make it in there.”
To prevent this, download a mobile security app (from a legitimate company) that scans, detects and blocks mobile threats found in downloaded apps before they can infect your mobile device. The best kind will also check for security updates automatically so you don’t have to worry.
Smartphone and Tablet Security Tip No. 4: Watch that Wi-Fi.
Most shopping and financial sites are using SSL for login information now, but it’s still safer not to send any sensitive data over an untrusted wireless network. (You know you’re on an SSL site when the URL starts with “https.”)
Also note that paying to access a Wi-Fi network doesn’t mean it’s secure. Access fees don’t necessarily mean a network is secure. If you have access to a VPN (virtual private network), use it. A VPN offers secure access to a company’s network.
Smartphone &Tablet Security Tip No. 5: Remotely wipe your tablet.
Tom Dunlap is a freelance writer and editor based in Santa Cruz, Calif. He writes for a variety of print and online publications, including PC World, Datamation, CNET.com, ZDNet.com and DevX.com.
Cloud computing enables you to connect wirelessly and comes with plenty of benefits. What's your favorite feature?