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How secure is your smartphone?

smartphone security: A man with a shadowy face holds a smartphone in a manner that can only fairly be described as menacing.
Obligatory stock photo: A shadowy, faceless man inexplicably wields a padlock, hasp in the open position, toward a smartphone… in the Matrix.

In 2015, the Pew Research Center made it official: The percentage of Americans who own smartphones is now larger than the percentage who own computers (desktop or laptop). Since 2012, the percentage of Americans who own computers has been dropping steadily and so, the number of people who access the Internet through their computers has dropped. More people now access the Internet through their smartphones.

For years, technology experts warned people to protect their computers against attacks from viruses, malware and hackers. Now, these same experts have shifted their focus to smartphones. With good reason: at least one-third of all smartphone users do absolutely nothing (not even use a simple passcode) to protect their phones.

It is time people understand the importance of securing their smartphones.

Why should I protect my smartphone?

Approximately 30 percent of all smartphone users make online purchases with their phones, and Bank of America estimates that $67 billion in online sales were made from phones in 2015. Those numbers, already impressive, are only expected to rise.

Each day we see commercials telling us how easy it is to make payments using our smartphone and how easy it is to buy products through apps. It may be easy, but all of that online activity is exposing your private information to a whole new network of bad guys. Experts affirm that smartphones aren’t that hard to hack, which means all of your personal and financial information is out there for anyone to see and steal.

Simple ways to secure your smartphone

Securing your smartphone starts with developing good habits when you store and use information. If your smartphone has a screen lock feature, make sure you enable that feature. Don’t use a password or passcode that’s easy to guess and don’t stick with the same one for too long.

Download operating system updates (over Wi-Fi, naturally) and install them so you’re always up to date and protected against known bugs and exploits.

No matter what type of smartphone you are using, always use a secure Wi-Fi connection in public. Nexus users can use Wi-Fi Assistant to secure their connection to the Wi-Fi access point.

SurfEasy VPN is an Android and iPhone app that allows you to utilize unsecured Wi-Fi connections while protecting the data being sent back and forth, meaning you’re much less open to attack.

You should also be very careful about the personally identifiable or sensitive information you store on your device. If you ever lose your phone, the screen lock is the only thing that stands between whoever finds your phone and the information your phone contains. Find my iPhone and Android Device Manager will allow you to track and, if necessary, wipe your phone should it fall into the wrong hands.

What about apps?

When you looking for apps to download, always use the official app marketplace for your phone (the Play Store for Android and the App Store for iPhone). Avoid downloading apps from anywhere else unless you implicitly trust the source.

Security apps differ from platform to platform, so you’d be wise to become familiar with the best security apps for your particular smartphone. For the iPhone platform, Trend Micro and McAfee offers a suite of security apps for your phone.

For the Android platform (which includes Samsung’s Galaxy line and phones from various other manufacturers including LG, Moto, HTC and Huawei to name a few) Avast is a popular choice Android. 360 Security is also a popular choice.

The short version

As you move away further away from the desktop or laptop as your primary device, don’t forget to migrate your security practices to mobile too. Your smartphone is just as vulnerable to attack as any other computing device. A few simple steps to secure your phone and protect your personal data will go a long way.

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