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Smartphone Security, man flicking through smartphone

Smartphones are now more than a device for making calls. They are like a mini-pocket book where lots of private data are stored. From your emails to your location history or even the history of websites or apps that you use. Such crucial data need protection and you should ensure data safety to minimize security threats by knowing more about your device.

Remember, there are viruses

Since a smartphone device is like a computer, it is prone to similar security threats. A malware can be installed on your device by hackers to monitor your data and hijack sensitive info like credit card details. Sometimes, there are corrupt apps get installed to simply irritate you. The risk of viruses making their way into your device is higher than ever.

Smartphone viruses also behave just like the ones on your personal computer. They can spread. They can be sent via SMS text message, web browser, or by directly hacking your phone’s networking capabilities.

So, be cautious. Don’t just download anything from the internet. The files you are trying to get could be infected with a virus.

No platform is 100% immune

Variety of Android platform
“Androids” by etnyk, used under CC BY-NC-ND

The operating system which powers your phone can have a significant impact on the risk you must be concerned with. Android, being the most popular, is the least secure. One cannot entirely blame Google for this risk. Every hacker targets Android mainly because it has the largest pool of innocent victims.

Experts are of the view that Apple’s iOS is much more secure as the company rigorously scans the App Store and prevent installation of apps from any other source. Besides, iOS is closely integrated with the hardware.

However, there are some apps that still behave so badly that they peek into your data without permissions. It is always advisable to avoid jailbreaking your iOS and never use “unauthorized” apps.

Users of BlackBerry have reported viruses in their devices. Windows Phone users are yet to report about viruses affecting them. That situation may soon change as Windows gets popular by the day.

Don’t trust anti-virus or security app completely

Android Apps on Google Play antivirus

Your efforts to minimize virus or malware getting into your smartphone may send you looking for security app, but you should be careful in picking one. Remember, not every security app is safe and sometimes many of them will never actually protect you.

As an Android user, you can check the reliability of the antivirus by looking at the latest reports from the AV Test and AV Comparatives. These sites compare the features of antivirus solutions by identifying malware that comes with every app. Well-known brands like Kaspersky and Bitdefender often win such contests, but some lesser-known ones like ESET and AhnLab also have good records.

On the negative side, BlackBerry and Windows Phone users have no such scores to refer to. If you are user of these phones, you should play it safe and go with the apps from companies with proven track record on Windows and Android platforms.

It has been found that while most antivirus apps perform what they say, the way they work is different. For example, AV Test for VIRUSfighter Antivirus Pro and Zoner AntiVirus found that there were many threats from using them. Both are popular apps with four-star rankings on Google Play and Zoner has been recommended over 20,000 times on Google+.

Finally, there are also total fakes. In April of 2014, a new antivirus app Virus Shield was sold at $4 to users and it topped the best-paid apps list. There was one problem: it did actually nothing! It was removed later, but not before over 10,000 users purchased and downloaded it.

So just research first and don’t fall completely for any new security app.

A lost phone is worse than a virus

Hoodie man with stolen phone
Photo from isorepublic.com

You may be worried about your smartphone being attacked with virus and you should rightly be. However, from security aspects, this is just one problem. The other side, which most of us don’t pay much attention, is the loss of the device, be it by accident or thanks to someone’s pickpocketing skills.

Your smartphone in a stranger’s hands opens up security issues we have discussed. It becomes terribly easy for people to access your saved credit cards info and read your emails.

The best protection you can deploy is take preemptive action. Put an activation passcode on your phone. Backup all your data. Ensure you are aware of the tools for remotely wiping your phone if it gets stolen. Waiting to take action until after your phone is stolen may be too late, so familiarize yourself with your phone’s security system. In most cases, the process takes just a few minutes.

Wherever there’s data, risk follows

To ensure your smartphone is completely secure is very complex as it involves multistage process. However, it is unavoidable because of the expanding capabilities of a smartphone. Remember, where there is data, there will always be someone who wants to get it, most of the time through illegitimate ways.

The good news, however, is that all manufacturers are becoming wiser to the problem. They have come up with features like backup, remote wiping and locking by default. You’ll also notice that there is large number of effective antivirus solutions, and some of them are 100% free. One good thing is that it is still lot less expensive and easier to protect a smartphone than your PC. We hope that trend continues in the future.

[Credits of the photo used for the featured image: "Close up of smartphone in hand” by Japanexperterna.se, used under CC BY-SA / Color filters added, image cropped]

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