Let’s start with the good news.  Although many security experts still warn people to avoid public USB ports for charging your phone, such as commonly found at airports, the threat to the security of your phone by charging at one of these public charging stations is quite little.  Although three years ago, Kaspersky Labs was able to install malware through a USB charging station in less than three minutes, this threat is of less concern today with newer iPhones and Android phones having greater security built into the phones to counter this danger.

The bad news, however, is that while we are all on our phones a great deal, many people do not take the same steps to protect the security of their phones that they do to protect the security of their computers.  Specifically, some of the dangers you face include, downloading apps tainted with malware, not having proper security software on your phone, failing to keep your security software up to date,  and using public Wifi for sensitive transactions where you can be hacked and clicking on links in emails or text messages that contain malware.

We all conduct many  activities on our cell phones which contain much personal information that can lead to identity theft if our phone falls into the wrong hands so it is important to follow basic security steps to keep your phone safe I have written many times about protecting your cellphone from a cyberattack or hacking, but what about an old fashioned theft of your phone? Cell phones can get lost or stolen and it is important to protect yourself from those dangers as well.

A Subscriber Identity Module, more commonly known as a SIM card, is an integrated circuit that stores information used to authenticate subscribers on mobile devices, such as a cell phone.  The SIM card is able to be transferred between different devices, and often is, when people update into a newer cell phone.  However, as more and more financial transactions, such as online banking, are now done through cell phones, identity thieves with access to their victims’ SIM cards are also increasingly becoming able to intercept security codes sent by text messages for online banking as part of dual factor authentication and thereby providing the identity thief with the opportunity to empty their victims’ bank accounts and cause other financial havoc.

 

TIPS

The best protection for your phone starts with a strong password, facial recognition or fingerprint scanner.  Also, set your phone so that it locks when you are not using it.  Make sure that you back up everything in your phone regularly. Install the Find My iPhone app if you have an iPhone or the Find My Device app if you have an Android phone.  These will enable you to locate your cellphone if it is lost or stolen and also allow you to send a command to erase everything in your cellphone even if the phone has been turned off.  If your phone is lost or stolen, you should immediately contact your wireless provider to have them disable the SIM card in your phone so that your phone cannot be used by someone else.  As for protecting your phone from cyberattacks, it is important to both download and continually update security software.

It is a good idea to limit your downloading of apps to legitimate sources such as the Apple App Store and Google Play to avoid malware infected apps.  However phony apps will get by the vetting process for the Apple App Store and Google Play so you cannot totally trust an app to be legitimate merely because it appears in one of those two places.  Apps Exposed maintains a list of phony apps which you can check here.  https://appsexposed.home.blog     Before downloading any app, read the reviews carefully.  While scammers will write glowing phony reviews about their apps to increase their rating, their reviews are usually cursory and do not provide much information.  In addition, to protect yourself,  make sure that you have installed security software on your phone and that it is updated with the latest security patches.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself from spear phishing emails and text messages is to never click on links in emails or text messages, regardless of how legitimate or innocuous they may appear unless you have absolutely confirmed that the communications are legitimate. The risk of downloading malware to your phone is too great if you click on links without verifying that they are legitimate.

There are things that you can do and there are things that the wireless carrier industry can do to reduce porting. Fortunately, there is an easy way to enhance your security to protect your SIM card from being switched and that is to set up a PIN or password to be used for access to your mobile service provider account.  Sprint and Verizon use PINs while T-Mobile and AT and T will let you set up a password

Finally, you should consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which enables you to send your communications through a separate and secure private network even while you are on a public Wifi.  Here is a link to an article that lists ten good VPNs that you can get for free. https://www.techradar.com/vpn/best-free-vpn

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