For most of us, our mobile phones and tablets are the gateway to our online world. They make it easy for us to do anything we can do on a computer and much, much more, thanks to go-anywhere connectivity and our choice from thousands of apps.
However, as with a computer, you need to set your devices up correctly and take care when going online, to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime.
The size and convenience of your mobile devices also bring risks. Their loss or theft would be at best, a hassle, but if someone gained access to your financial or other confidential information via your devices or their apps, you could become a victim of fraud or identity theft … or both.
Top tips for using your mobile devicesUpdate software and apps when prompted, including operating systems. These often contain security updates. Download security apps on all your mobile devices, including Apple devices. Always protect your mobile devices with a PIN or password, even if they come with biometric protection. Review your device settings regularly to ensure your privacy is protected. Set your devices to back up automatically to protect confidential or irreplaceable files or other information from loss. Wi-Fi hotspots should be avoided for confidential communications or transactions, as there’s no guarantee that they’re secured. Use a VPN or instead, use your data or wait until you get back to your secure Wi-Fi. Think before you click: clicking on email attachments or links in emails and social media posts could infect your devices with various types of malware, including ransomware and spyware.Giving a caller remote access to your devices could result in malware or fraud. Grant access only to an authorised support person who you have contacted with a problem. Keep mobile devices secure in the home and office. The information on them is normally worth a lot more to a criminal than selling on the device itself. Never leave mobile devices unattended, including in a café, the gym or your vehicle. Keep your device protected when out and about in crowded areas. Mobiles make attractive targets for pickpockets and ride-by thieves.
Top tips for using apps Avoid downloading fake apps by using only the official store for your device’s operating system. Even then, read reviews and choose with care, as some rogue apps sometimes make their way into app stores. Read terms and conditions when downloading apps to understand aspects like data sharing and in-app payments. Consider the permissions you grant for apps to access your location, photos, camera, contacts or other functions or data. Check app settings to determine whether downloading updates and day-to-day data are enabled automatically. If they are, it could make it easier for your data to be intercepted, and may use up your data allowance.Observe apps’ minimum age ratings, which may vary from store to store. This is important for apps which may be accessed by children. Log out of apps – particularly those for banking, shopping or payments – when you’ve finished using them. This also goes for location-based apps, when you want to protect your whereabouts. Always download app updates when prompted. As well as providing new features and better functionality, updates usually contain security fixes. Be aware of the data used by apps when you’re out and about, including roaming charges abroad. And remember that some apps enable in-app purchases, which can be very attractive to use – especially to children – but at a price. Remove apps you haven’t used for a while, apart from security apps. If you’re disposing of your device by any means, erase all data and apps, also preferably doing a factory re-set.
Get Safe Online
Get Safe Online is the UK’s leading source of information and advice on online safety and security, for the public and small businesses. It is a not-for-profit, public/private sector partnership backed by law enforcement agencies and leading organisations in internet security, banking and retail.
For more information and expert, easy-to-follow, impartial advice on safeguarding yourself, your family, finances, devices and workplace, visit www.getsafeonline.org
If you think you’ve been a victim of online fraud, report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre on 0300 123 20 40 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk. In Scotland, report fraud to Police Scotland by calling 101.