Smartphone Hacking Is on the Rise. Know How to Protect Yourself

Photo: Harland Quarrington/MOD [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Harland Quarrington/MOD [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

Cybersecurity analysts from Kaspersky Labs say that criminal hackers are targeting smartphones with increasing interest. According to Roel Schouwenberg, Kaspersky Labs’ principal security researcher, the last two years notably showed huge influx of smartphone hacking attempts.

Apparently, hackers are very interested in the information contained in smartphone memories. As these devices become more functional, they also become more valuable to those with nefarious intentions. Many phones nowadays contain passwords for various accounts, including banking and online money transfer accounts. Many are also doing banking transactions through mobile apps that may have the information hackers are seeking.

On the other hand, Tony Anscombe, senior security evangelist for AVG Technologies, explains that one of the most vulnerable aspects of smartphone hacking is short message service or text messaging. Most people have been oriented with the security measures to observe while using a desktop computer. On mobile devices, however, people tend to not observe a similar level of caution as most smartphone users indiscriminately tap on links they see.

So how do you protect yourself? The following pointers should help:

By Poa Mosyuen (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Poa Mosyuen (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Always secure your device with a password or PIN.

Don’t be bothered when people think that you are using passwords because you are hiding something – because you definitely should be hiding something. The information you have stored on your mobile devices are not for the public to know and access. Securing smartphones and other mobile devices with passwords or PINs is a must.

Even if you only have photos, videos, and messages stored on your smartphone at the moment, you should always think of password protecting your device. What’s important is that you develop the habit of securing the things you own. You’ll never know when you will finally start using your devices to store important details like your credit card numbers or bank account details.

Set up a password or PIN for general device access (on the lockscreen) as well as for your SIM card access. These passwords should be different. If you have important files that should be given greater security, you can use apps that provide additional password protection for folders. You can also “zip” or compress them with password protection using apps like RAR for Android. Remember that passwords are your first line of defense so be sure to have a long and complicated enough password to make it very difficult to crack them.

2. Regularly update your operating system and the apps you use on your smartphone.

Having the latest operating system is not just for the bragging rights and added features.  Operating system updates also come with bug fixes and other solutions that address weaknesses or loopholes in the previous version. Usually, operating system providers like Google (Android) and Apple (iOS) would provide details on what is included in the OS update. If a security flaw fix is the mix, they will most likely highlight it as the reason for the update.

If the updates announced are only for additional features, it is usually better to wait for others to try the new software before updating. Sometimes, new features come with bugs and other problems that may cause erratic behavior on your device so it would better to just wait for others to try it first.

By Sham Hardy from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Sham Hardy from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

3. Use anti-malware software/application.

Antiviruses or anti-malware applications are a must for every device, especially the popular ones. You don’t even have to spend for them. There are many free mobile malware protection apps to download from app stores. They work most of the time. You may have to deal with the cumbersome ads but at least you are getting malware protection for free

4. Always use secure network connections.

If you use websites where you will be entering usernames and passwords, make sure that they are secure by examining the “https” portion of the URL. Secure sites come with the “https” (there’s an S) instead of the typical “http” URL prefix. On the other hand, if you use public Wi-Fi connections, avoid going to online services that may divulge vital privacy-defeating details about you.

Don’t use your email, PayPal, and banking services when connecting through a public Wi-Fi network. There are software that sniff passwords and usernames while connections are made with these supposedly secure online services.

5. Prevent websites from caching your login details.

It’s difficult to trust app privacy these days. Allowing them to store your login details may lead to dire consequences. While it is very convenient to access your frequently visited sites (like Facebook) without having to type in your username and password, you may want to consider the security risks of such convenience.

6. Use a service for locating, locking, and wiping out the memory of your smartphone.

You need to consider this option if you want to avoid letting thieves or snatchers make use of the data you have on your device. Apps like Airdroid and Google’s Android Device Manager can allow you to do these. You don’t have to pay for anything. You just need to set the service up.

By HawaiianMama (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By HawaiianMama (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Don’t be negligent in your smartphone use habits. You may have unwittingly saved a lot of information on your smartphone that can be used against you. Even if you think you are unlikely to attract the interest of a hacker, it’s always good to develop a habit of being security-aware. You don’t need to buy a highly secure device like Boeing’s Black Phone to be secure. The points mentioned above usually suffice in establishing a good enough level of defense against nefarious hackers.