Many of us rely on our smartphones for more than just making calls and sending texts. These sophisticated devices allow us to access the Internet, social media, and even connect to local servers to stream music and video content. While these mobile perks are hugely beneficial, they can also act as a pitfall when it comes to cybersecurity. After all, your smartphone is a magnet for hackers, who might attempt to steal your personal information, install malware, or otherwise interfere with your online activity. Luckily, there are simple steps you can follow to ensure that your personal data remains safe and sound while surfing the web from the comfort of your phone.
Use A VPN
Just like the security guard at the front door of your home, a virtual private network offers one more layer of defense between you and the bad guys. A VPN allows you to access blocked content and websites while keeping your personal data anonymous. Some experts even believe that using a VPN is safer than browsing the web with your standard browser (Safari, Chrome, or Edge).
It’s important to keep in mind that your VPN provider can’t help protect you from all threats. For example, if a hacker somehow convinces your VPN provider that they are you (or someone you know), your personal data might still be at risk. However, using a VPN is the best first step towards keeping your information secure.
Check For Updates
Your smartphone is never going to be at the top of its game if you don’t keep it updated with the latest software and firmware. But when it comes to cybersecurity, it’s important to remember that not all updates are created equal. Just because your phone’s manufacturer released an update for WiFi, storage, or another seemingly unimportant piece of software doesn’t mean that your device is automatically safe to use on the Internet. Some experts even suggest considering whether or not to install an update if they can’t verify its source. For example, if you’re not sure where the firmware for your WiFi came from, it might not be such a good idea to install it. On the other hand, if you’re confident that the update is from a reputable source (like Apple or Google), it could be the perfect solution you’re looking for.
Keep Applications And Software Up To Date
Just like your smartphone, your tablet or laptop can also become a breeding ground for malware. There are dozens of free and paid-for applications (apps) that can compromise your security. To avoid this, always keep your applications up to date and ensure you’re running the most recent version. Some of the most common apps that put your personal data at risk are:
- Email clients (Outlook, Thunderbird)
- Messaging apps (Whatsapp, Signal, Telegram)
- Browser plugins (Facebook, Google)
- Virtual private network clients (PPTP, L2TP)
- Remote desktop apps (Logmein, VNC)
If you decide that an update isn’t worth it, either for your smartphone or another device, it’s crucial that you remove the app and any malicious software that may have been bundled with it. Even better, take the time to search for and remove all traces of it from your computer.
Use A Firewall
This one may sound like it has something to do with networking, but it’s pretty straightforward when you break it down. Your firewall allows you to regulate what type of traffic flows through your device and whether or not certain apps can connect to the Internet or other devices on your home network. There are a few good free firewall apps, like Onion Firewall and Safer WiFi, that you can download and use to get started.
Some experts believe that using a firewall is essential when it comes to protecting your personal data while online. They point out that the firewall, along with your VPN, is the last line of defense between you and hackers, spyware, and other malicious software. If you’re not familiar, a firewall acts as a gatekeeper, allowing only certain types of traffic through and blocking everything else. For example, using a firewall with your VPN will limit most outside connections (like WiFi and LTE) while still allowing your smartphone to connect with servers and other devices on your home network (LAN).
Firewalls work by inspecting the data that flows across their network, looking for patterns and performing routine checks on all devices to make sure they stay safe and clean.
Consider Using A Safe Search
The process of searching for something online can be very dangerous if you’re not careful. When you use your browser’s “Safe Search” feature, it can automatically filter the results of your search queries so that no potentially dangerous websites show up. This can help protect your personal data as well as help keep your smartphone’s display clean. While the filter is turned on, searches will be limited to websites that comply with the highest privacy and safety standards.
Be Careful Where You Type
If you’re online, you’re probably already aware that your typing can be tracked. This applies whether you’re using a virtual private network or your smartphone’s web browser. Web browsers like Chrome and Firefox implement a feature called “Clear History and Cookies” that securely erases all of your online activity after you close a tab or window. It’s an excellent feature that helps keep your personal information private and reduces the number of third-party trackers that follow you around the web. It also prevents the content you visit from being stored on remote servers that can be accessed by hackers and other unscrupulous elements.
To avoid this, don’t type any personal or sensitive information into addresses, emails, or other places where it can be tracked. If possible, use a search engine like DuckDuckGo that doesn’t retain any information about your searches. Alternatively, you can use a VPN to encrypt all your Internet traffic, preventing anyone, including hackers, from reading your private information.
Keeping your personal data secure while surfing the web is easier than ever with these tips. You don’t need to be a technology expert to utilize them. Simply install a VPN on your smartphone or computer (if it isn’t already there), make sure your applications are up to date, and keep an eye out for malicious software (malware) when using public WiFi. Remember to remove any apps that you don’t need and update your firewall periodically to ensure that your devices stay safe and secure.