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IT Top Ten: Protecting Your Mobile Devices

March 8, 2017
Spotlight on Safe Computing

Everybody knows that feeling when you get a notice to update your device. I don't have time! I'm trying to actually do something right now! Not now! Actually, not ever, iTunes! Ha!

But did you know that keeping your devices up to date - even if it means sacrificing 20 minutes where you could be Snapchatting yourself as a ghost, deer, or old gentlemen - helps to keep your devices secure? Your phone, tablet, or laptop computers store so much information. More than we ever even think about on a day-to-day basis. Passwords, social media logins, financial information, credit card numbers, your mom's phone number, your Netflix viewing history, your email inboxes, calendar appointments... and even private University data.

Protecting your devices - like your smartphone - is just as important as protecting your purse or your wallet. Would you leave your wallet sitting on the table at Starbucks if you run to the bathroom? No! Never! It's actually more likely that you have even more valuable information on your devices than in your wallet.

And, as it turns out, protecting your devices is actually quite easy. You just have to take the steps and the time (like the 15 minutes it takes to update your iOS) to get it all set up.

Here are the top 10 things you can do to protect your mobile devices:

  1. Use strong lock screen security. Pick one! A pattern, a PIN, your fingerprint, a 124-character password, facial recognition… whatever your device offers in the way of screen lock. A password or passphrase is the most secure, but anything is better than nothing. Also - set your device to lock after one minute or less. Learn how to create strong passwords.
  2. Go the distance and lock down your apps, too. A secondary lock or login is the new standard on banking and financial apps, but there are options for other apps - think social media. The more layers of security you have, the stronger your devices will hold up to threats or vulnerabilities.
  3. Log out! Sure, staying logged in gives you instant access to your email, Facebook, photo stream, and apps like Ebay, Amazon, or Etsy when you need to buy something NOW. But you know? It also gives a thief easy, instant access to win the auction on the creepy antique doll collection, too.
  4. Install antivirus software. Duh! Use antivirus software on your computer, phone, and tablet. Antivirus software is used to prevent, detect and remove malicious software. It will spot anything that tries to sneak onto your device and shut it down. It often runs in the background after you set it up, so you don't need to do much for this one.
  5. Don't use unofficial app stores and never install software you did not seek out. If something seems fishy, or phishy, don't download it. Use approved and recommended apps, and if you are prompted to download software or click a link you didn’t seek out, clear out of the screen or webpage.
  6. Don't "jailbreak" or "root" your phone or tablet. This means that you unlock your device to do whatever you want with it. You can access or modify every file on your devices, but it's a bad idea. You'll be behind on operating system updates and more importantly, rooted or "jailbroken" devices are more vulnerable to attack. Breaking your phone in such a way may cause it to act up - your battery could drain very quickly, apps crash for no reason, and you might be forced to factory restore your device which puts you back at square one anyway. Play by the device rules for safety, friends.
  7. Always update your device when prompted, or, when you have the first chance. Even though we all hate how long updates take, and that you can't use your phone for 20 minutes, and you have to close all 38 of your open unread tabs in Chrome, it's good for you in the long run! Think of it as an apple a day keeps the doctor away type of thing - except it's only an apple a few times a year and it will keep your identity from being stolen. In addition to improving the overall performance of your devices, updates often patch security vulnerabilities. Sneaky cyber criminals may read said patch updates to find new ways to compromise your un-updated devices, so it's a good idea all-around to bite the bullet and click "agree" instead of "not now."
  8. Use secure WiFi. Using a secure WiFi connection, like eduroam while on campus, ensures your device is less susceptible to attack and your online activities are more protected.
  9. Make sure you can remotely track your device. If a device is stolen, you can track it down through programs like "Find my iPhone." Also, make sure you can remotely wipe your devices. There are secure apps for this whether you're in Camp Android or Camp Apple. Wouldn't you feel better knowing that if your tablet gets snatched from the airport, you can log in on another device and clear all of your private information and data? Most definitely!
  10. Back up your data. But make sure it is protected by a strong password and, if possible, two factor authentication!

That's it! As easy and quick as taking a Buzzfeed quiz. Except that knowing how to protect your devices from cyber threat is more relevant than knowing what kind of sandwich you are or which science-fiction dystopia you belong in. But here's a quick quiz for you… how many of these things are you currently doing? And how many more could you do in the next 10 minutes? Those 10 minutes could save you hours or days of headache in the future, so go ahead and set a strong password, lock down an app, or back up your data, we dare ya!