Protect Your Smartphone: 9 Easy Steps to Keep Hackers Away 
It is almost no exaggeration to say, "Your phone is your life," as we check it over 352 times daily. In a world where smartphones are an extension of our very existence, safeguarding them from lurking hackers is critical. Here are 9 simple tips to shield your phone from cybercriminals and keep your data safe.
1. Strong passwords and biometric authentication
It's a no-brainer: securing your phone is as essential as safeguarding your computer or bank account. Neglecting to use a password or biometric authentication (e.g., face or fingerprint) on your smartphone is the equivalent of leaving a cash-filled wallet unattended on a park bench.
Biometric authentication offers impressive security and convenience. However, it can occasionally fail to recognize your fingerprint or face due to improper placement or pressure. That's why having a solid backup password is crucial.
Follow these 4 widely recommended tips to create a strong password:
- Create a lengthy password instead of a simple 4-digit code.
- Avoid using personal information like your birthday or someone else close to you.
- Steer clear of consecutive numbers or repeated digits.
- Refrain from using easily guessed words, like 'password.'
Read our best passwords for security to further enhance yours.
2. Keep your smartphone software up to date
Keeping software up to date is one of the simplest things you can do to keep your phone secure. Your phone typically notifies you when an update is available, making it easy to download and install.
Why are software updates so crucial? First, they strengthen your phone's defenses against malware and other cyberattacks. Second, they enhance overall performance by addressing glitches or bugs that the manufacturer has identified. Staying current with updates keeps your device both secure and running smoothly.
3. Avoid public Wi-Fi
Using public Wi-Fi can be risky, like leaving your wallet on a table while ordering coffee. You can't be sure of the intentions of those around you, so it's best to avoid it whenever possible.
If you must use public Wi-Fi, refrain from accessing sensitive information or entering passwords. For instance, don't conduct your banking transactions at a local fast-food joint because these networks are often unsecured and susceptible to eavesdropping. So, cybercriminals can intercept your login credentials and personal information and risk your privacy and security.
Exercise caution and stay vigilant when connecting to Wi-Fi networks in public places. Be mindful of the cyber criminals who craft deceptive Wi-Fi hotspots masquerading as authentic networks. These seemingly legitimate networks are designed to deceive and steal your personal information.
4. Download apps only from trusted sources
Downloading apps from untrusted sources puts your smartphone and personal data at risk. To ensure your safety, download apps only from trusted sources. Here are some tips on how to do that:
- Stick to official app stores: Most smartphones come with an official app store such as Google Play Store or Apple App Store. With strict security measures, the stores will vet apps before listing them.
- Check app ratings and reviews: Check what other users say before downloading an app. Skip apps with many negative reviews or low ratings.
- Research the app's developer: Before downloading, research if the developer has a good reputation. Check their website and social media presence to see their history.
- Avoid downloading from third-party sources: Avoid downloading apps from third-party sources or websites, as they may contain malware. These sites aren't regulated and may lack proper security measures.
5. Limit app permissions
Even apps bought from legitimate companies can become contaminated with malware. Check the permission of apps you have downloaded on your phone and turn off any you believe are unnecessary or excessive.
Be cautious of apps with permission requests for the following:
- Personal information: Be wary of apps requesting sensitive data like your Social Security number or credit card details, which can lead to identity theft or unauthorized transactions.
- Camera or microphone: Ensure that apps requiring access to your camera or microphone have a legitimate purpose, such as video calling or recording.
- Contacts: Access to your contacts makes it easier for hackers to contact people you know or share content.
- Storage: is there a reason an app would want to open your saved files?
- Location: be mindful of apps requiring location access, as this can be used for targeted advertising or tracking your whereabouts. Only allow location access for apps that genuinely need it, like maps or ride-sharing services.
Regularly reviewing and managing app permissions will help protect your privacy and enhance your smartphone's security.
6. Beware of phishing scams
Phishing scams are deceptive tactics where fraudsters impersonate reputable companies like your bank to trick you into providing personal information or clicking on malicious links. While phishing is commonly associated with email, it's crucial to remember that you may also access email through your phone.
Your phone's software may also be connected to your computer, making it vulnerable to phishing attacks. Even a simple mistyped website address can lead you to a malicious site that looks legitimate but has a suspicious URL. So the message is clear: stay vigilant for phishing scams and double-check website addresses to ensure they're genuine before proceeding.
7. Practice safe browsing habits
Google's Safe Browsing site offers insights and information on millions of unsafe websites discovered each week. For instance, in December 2022, they found over 4 million sites. The purpose of these malicious websites is to deceive you into downloading harmful software (malware) or divulging your private information.
Website owners may be unaware that their site has been compromised, so Google alerts users and owners. To protect yourself, maintain a heightened awareness of potential scams, be cautious with your clicks, and exercise common sense.
Use common sense. For instance, if you search for "doughnuts near me" and end up on a site requesting your name, date of birth, home address, and credit card details, it's unlikely they're genuinely interested in selling you doughnuts. Be skeptical and stay safe while browsing the web.
Our 10 Internet safety rules will further protect you.
8. Use security software on your phone
Your phone holds a wealth of valuable information – photos, documents, contacts, emails, messages, and more. While these assets are vital to you, they're also enticing to cybercriminals. To prevent your data from being exploited on the dark web, your contacts being targeted for scams, or your phone being held for ransom, it's essential to use anti-virus software.
Choosing reputable anti-virus software with a proven track record of effectiveness is essential. One way to do this is by checking if the software has been reviewed by independent testing organizations:
They test anti-virus software for its ability to:
- detect and remove malware
- system performance impact
Seek software with high ratings, as it can shield you from multiple threats, including malware, phishing, and data theft. Check out options you feel comfortable with to find the right security software for your phone.
9. Backup your data
Imagine if your phone suddenly stopped working or went missing – would you lose all your precious photos and essential documents? For many, such a scenario would be incredibly frustrating.
Regularly back up your phone's data to a reliable cloud or external hard drive to avoid losing valuable data. By doing so, you'll have peace of mind knowing your cherished memories and important files are safe, even if the unexpected occurs.
In summary, never take your phone's security for granted. Your phone is a mini-computer, and like all computers, it's susceptible to attack. Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities to seek profit. Their motive isn't personal – they're after any opportunity to profit from your weakness.
To protect against cybercriminals:
- Keep your phone's operating system and apps up to date.
- Avoid downloading apps from untrustworthy sources.
- Sip apps that want excessive information or permissions.
- Exercise care when clicking on links.
- Be mindful when sharing personal information online.
- Enhance your phone's security with anti-virus software.
- Regularly back up your phone's data to a secure location, such as a cloud storage service or external hard drive, just in case.
Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.