10-Holiday Pointers to Protect Against Hackers

Remember when a cell phone was just a phone?  Now days we can surf the web, order Chinese food, check our bank balances, pay bills or do just about anything that you can do with a personal computer.  Unfortunately, now the stakes are much higher if your device becomes lost or is stolen.   Don’t fall victim to hackers looking to pick your pocket or worse yet your bank account!  They truly don’t have to even touch you any longer. If a new smart phone is on your wish list for this Holiday Season, here are 10-Holiday pointers that you can use to make your device more secure from the eyes of would be hackers and cyber crooks:

  1. While it may be fun to buy your latest book download of “Fifty Shades of Grey” directly from Amazon using their “One Click” feature while enjoying a latte at your favorite coffee shop, make sure that you are ordering over your cellular data service network and not by connecting to the coffee shop’s unsecured Wi-Fi.  Your cellular service is “100 times” more secure than the unsecured network provided by the coffee shop!  If you don’t know if you are on an unsecured network, don’t worry.  There is an app for that.  Lookout for the iPad and Android devices can warn you if you attempt to use an unsecured network, accidentally download malware and even help you locate your phone should you lose it or have it stolen.
  2. If you use Bluetooth for your hands free driving (and I believe you should!) don’t leave Bluetooth in a discoverable mode.   Not only does it waste your battery but it might allow a hacker to take over your telephone. Once a hacker has taken over your phone they can make calls on your dime, read your messages, read your contacts, change your profile or play your songs.  And – if you utilize a password to make a transaction, the hacker will be able to discover your passwords.
  3.  You can usually tell if Bluetooth is on and paired to a device by looking for the Bluetooth icon.  If the icon is gray it means Bluetooth is on – but not connected.  If the icon is blue – it means Bluetooth is on and the accessory is connected.  If the Bluetooth icon is missing – it means Bluetooth is off.
  4. Keep your device’s operating system updated according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Every time they update the software they include security patches that make your telephone less susceptible to hackers.
  5. Turn on all security features the device may have.  That is especially important of the security code to turn on the device.  Use as many letters and symbols as the device will allow.  If you can only use four numbers like on the iPhone or iPad – at least use 4 numbers that are not as simple as 1,2,3,4!  Absolutely, do not use the pin for your ATM or debit card.
  6. Install third party antivirus and malware software for your device just as you would on your PC.   There are many available that are inexpensive and easy to operate.
  7. Don’t loan your phone out to anyone you don’t know.  It doesn’t take long for a sophisticated hacker to extract valuable data from your phone.Think carefully before you store confidential or personal information on your device.  If you must, be sure that it is encrypted at the highest setting.  If you don’t know how to encrypt it, don’t store it.
  8. Don’t utilize programs that will allow you to access your desktop remotely.  While this sounds exciting, I am certain that you will not end up using it that often and in the wrong hands your remote application can empty your bank accounts.
  9. Uninstall applications you do not use.  You can always get them back if you really need them and unless they come from a trusted manufacturer, they may have access to data that you never would want someone to access.
  10. Last but not least, don’t leave your phone or device unprotected or unattended anywhere.  I have watched people set their phones on their table at a restaurant and then walk off without the phone.  Check the lost and found at a cab company and see how many people leave phones on car seats.

Have a safe and enjoyable Holiday Season with friends and relatives.  I will get back to you right after the break between Christmas and New Years.

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