How to theft-proof your mobile data

Learn why prevention is the key to data protection

15 Oct 2018

Key takeaways

  • Mobile devices tend to house more personal information than computers. Optimizing privacy settings is crucial.
  • Avoid connecting to public WiFi networks. If you need to connect, do nothing but browse the internet.
  • Antivirus programs are effective, but it also takes a vigilant attitude to give your data maximum security.
  • Your data is valuable. Prevent problems before they happen.

After high-profile celebrity photo hacks, business system data leaks and questions about how well social networks protect our personal data, you may be interested in stepping up your own mobile data security.

While protecting your data may seem like a challenging proposition, you can take some simple and easy steps to better protect your personal information. Following these expert tips will get you on track to a more secure mobile experience.

Optimizing Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and Apple privacy settings is crucial, along with any other social networking or web applications you use. UBS Deputy Head of Fraud Risk Management Jamie Howard points out that privacy breaches are not limited to desktop devices. In fact, mobile devices may be a bigger risk. "Criminals now target mobile phones specifically more than computers."

Howard continues, "There tends to be more personal information on there. On your computer, you may not have a list of your contacts. On your cell phone, they may get email addresses, residential addresses and more information they can use to steal identities."

Criminals now target mobile phones specifically more than computers.
Jamie Howard, UBS Deputy Head of Fraud Risk Management

Each social network offers detailed privacy configuration information. Set all of your online profiles so only those who should have access to your information are granted permission.

Be aware of where you connect

While it is tempting to connect to any open internet network to save a few bucks on data, you may be foregoing security. When asked what public WiFi networks to avoid, Howard gave a concise answer: "I wouldn't connect anywhere."

While it is very difficult to intercept cellular phone signals, picking up information on a shared wireless network is easy for skilled cyber criminals. "If you do need to connect to public WiFi, the rule is simple: Do nothing over that connection but browse the internet."

"Check the football scores or browse online stores," says Howard, "but anything that requires you to enter personal data, log in to anything or provide any credit or bank card information, you don't do on public WiFi."

Using a VPN, or virtual private network, can boost your data security even further, as it creates a tunnel from your device right to a secured server. "If you are tech savvy, a VPN is always going to make you significantly more safe than not using a VPN."

Download and click with care

Properly configured antivirus programs are effective at preventing some of the worst viruses and malware from getting onto your computer and phone, but it takes a vigilant attitude to give your data maximum security.

One of the biggest sources of threats is emails. "In excess of 99 percent of phishing emails contain some form of malware or malicious software," Howard explains. "The greatest area of caution is opening links or emails, regardless if [it] is on a computer or mobile phone."

Never click or download if you don't know it is safe. Even some major news sites have been hacked and infected with malicious advertisements in the past. Keeping your phone and apps updated offers another line of defense against malicious activity.

Your data privacy is in your hands

While you might not think your data is valuable, Howard says that every web user should consider themselves a legitimate target. But by taking small steps today, you can avoid big hassles in the future.

You can begin by adding a lock code to your phone, for instance, and occasionally removing apps you no longer use; then you can graduate to installing antivirus and VPN software on your phone, which will thwart many of the problems before they happen. Prevention, a buzzword in the world of data protection, is what mobile security is all about.