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01/26/2015

5 Mobile Security Tips

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As smartphones and tablets become increasingly essential to users, the risk of hacking rises. Rather than allowing your smartphone or other mobile device to flap in the proverbial wind, check out five security tips to employ in the new year: 

 

Lock It Up

The first thing you should do in terms of mobile security is lock your device up. Andrew Jaquith, a former Forrester Research analyst and current chief technology officer for Perimeter E-Security recommends creating an easy-to-type password as your “first line of defense” if your device contains sensitive data you’d rather not share with everyone. However, it’s important passwords are long enough so "you can pair it with an auto-destruct policy--fail eight times to enter the right password and it deletes the data on the phone--to be sure your data will be safe," says Jaquith.  

Create a strong password, i.e. one that’s not easily “cracked.” Experts recommend 15-character passwords, which are 90 times harder to decipher than 14-character passwords. “Characters” in this case refers to the use of numbers as well as letters to make a strong password. 

 

Accept Patches 

As with PCs, mobile phones require frequent patching to remove any vulnerabilities that cropped up following the device’s release. Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer for mobile security firm Lookout, says users should always accept updates.

"When you are prompted on Android, update," he notes. "For iPhone users, it's a bit more complex. You need to plug in and update your apps." 

 

Steer Clear Of Questionable Apps

DroidDream, the most successful malicious app currently in existence, infected a quarter million Android phones in one month by posing as a real application. Avoid infecting your phone by downloading apps from trusted app stores. Using the most popular apps is also a way to avoid problems, as well as those with a considerable number of reviews and comments. 

 

Don’t “Jailbreak”

Security experts say it’s very important to avoid “jailbreaking” your phone, even if it is, uh, tempting. The vast majority of a phone’s security is directly linked to code signing and software sandboxing, so jailbreaking, or removing removing the digital-rights management that locks it to a certain carrier, is a way to easily weaken your device’s security. Installing antivirus software is also considered unnecessary, as such software doesn’t do much to protect the entire phone. 

 

Back It Up 

Finally, it’s necessary to back up your data, which luckily is not a difficult feat on mobile devices. Doing so regularly makes it much less likely to lose data. 

"Now that there is over-the-air syncing and updates, it's really easy to restore your phone," says Michael Sutton, vice president of research for cloud security firm Zscaler. "If your phone gets taken or the data deleted, it takes 30 minutes and your phone is back to normal." 

 

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