How to Protect Yourself From Phone Hacks in 2020

By now, most people are at least somewhat aware of the dangers hackers pose to their PC. With the prevalence of both IT and malware these days, there’s hardly a user out there that hasn’t suffered some sort of malicious attack, or at least heard/witnessed first hand the damage that a hack can wreak. However, unfortunately, for most IT users, malicious actors are no longer solely interested in just hacking their PC. On the contrary, for years now, cyber-criminals have focused their efforts on devising more covert ways to gain access to their victims through said victim’s mobile smart devices – which, yes, includes their phones.

Take a second to consider the following - the mobile phone of Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon and currently – the richest man alive, was allegedly hacked when he clicked a video sent to him through WhatsApp. This essentially gave control over his phone and all of its contents to the malicious actors behind the attack. This would be a horrible breach of privacy, even before you take into account the full scope of the information the ordinary smartphone user stores on their device. And if it can happen to a man such as Jeff Bezos, it is certainly a threat to regular users. So what steps should you take to protect yourself from phone hacks effectively?

How to Protect Yourself From Phone Hacks

  1. Be aware that you can be the target of an attack. Hackers don’t exclusively target billionaires and corporations – anyone could end up on the receiving end of their depredations. If you see something untoward – be aware that your security may be in jeopardy.
  2. Never “Root” your Android. Similarly, never “Jailbreak” your iPhone. Doing so gives you complete access to the inner workings of your device, but also disables many of the inbuilt protections that the manufacturers have deliberately put in place for your personal safety.
  3. Always keep your phone’s Operating System (OS) up to date. You know these annoying updates that are always pestering you, and almost never seem to do much? Well, they are mainly security patches, plugging holes in your device’s defenses that you didn’t even know existed, but that hackers may try to take advantage of.
  4. Don’t “sideload,” or download apps from third-party sites. Cybercriminals are known to create fake apps, specifically designed to trick people into downloading malware or spyware onto their device.
  5. Never use public charging stations unless it is absolutely necessary. Hackers have been reported to set up fake charging stations to perform scams known as “juice jacking.” After an unsuspecting user plugs in their device, said malicious actors gain access to the phone’s data, or just full the device with malware to the brim.
  6. Avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. The owner of the network can easily access and monitor your activity on said network.
  7. Avoid opening email links, even if you trust the sender. Phishing attacks remain a prevalent method for gaining access to a user’s private accounts, and a huge portion of the malware currently plaguing users is delivered via email. Smartphone users are just as susceptible to this type of attack as PC users – and in some respects, even more so.
  8. If you absolutely must connect your phone to a public Wi-Fi network, make sure you do everything in your power to avoid visiting websites that contain sensitive or financial information. Don’t input said information into any form, no matter if you trust the source completely. Things like your bank or credit card’s website can be faked by canny hackers. If you are in a position where you are forced to do this, make use of a “virtual private network” or VPN. This type of service encrypts your data so that the owner of the network you are using can’t get their hands on it.
  9. Enable auto-lock on your phone. Set up Touch ID or Facial Recognition on your device, as well as back that up with a suitably complex PIN or pattern. There’s no such thing as overkill when it comes to online security.
  10. Use a wide variety of complex passwords, different for each account you own. Don’t save them in your browser – or in any single place, for that matter. If you have trouble keeping track of all of them - use a password manager and test your password strength before using it.
  11. Keep a handy backup of your smartphone’s data – and perform regular backups. If push comes to shove, you may want to be able just to write off your mobile device that gets lost, stolen, destroyed, or hacked. After all, there is no point crying over spilled milk – the best thing you can do is be prepared to take the brunt of the loss, have a contingency to sync your accounts with another device, and move on from the unpleasant incident as soon as possible.
  12. Install antivirus software on mobile devices. As a best practice for any mobile device — phones, tablets, or other — consider adding antivirus software for the additional security, it provides against malware or other viruses.
  13. Invest in threat defense for mobile. Anti-malware protection is just as important here as it is for a PC user.
  14. Make sure you enable two–factor authentication (2FA) or biometrics for key accounts. It is practically mandatory for mobile banking apps and peer-to-peer payment apps.
February 18, 2020

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