A growing number of Americans are using smartphones for everything from banking to buying, but few consider how vulnerable their personal information has become. Not that long ago, stealing sensitive data required actual burglary – now thieves can unravel entire lives with just a few taps. Our data travels with us 24/7, stored on devices that are easy to lose and relatively simple to swipe.
The unlikely possibility of meeting a pickpocket should be less scary than the very real fact that mobile security threats have increased year by year. Even scarier is the fact that most of us aren’t doing what it takes to protect our mobile devices from these threats. Analysts at Gartner have found that misconfiguration, misuse, and mistakes account for the majority of mobile security breaches. That means that the power to protect smartphones is in users’ hands but those users, whether due to ignorance or stubbornness, are opting not to wield it.
Considering we live in an age where phones are sometimes vulnerable to hacking via text messages, it pays to be extra cautious. The good news is that protecting precious personal data is a lot easier than most people assume. Simply owning a phone with a top mobile processor such as the Snapdragon 820 which has plenty of built-in protection – e.g., enhanced malware detection skills and ultrasonic fingerprint scanning technology – that just need to be turned on, can provide security with minimal effort on your end. This kind of out-of-the box protection is only enhanced by security apps.
5 Apps to Use to Secure Your Smartphone
LastPass is a third-party password generator dubbed ‘one of the best online password managers’ that creates complex, hard to crack passwords and saves them for the user. Implemented as a browser extension, the free app makes it easy to store usernames and passwords. The LastPass plugin extension saves sites that need logins so you can automatically log in on your next visit to the site.
Want more features? LastPass offers a premium platform ($12 per year) that offers unlimited syncing on unlimited devices, allowing you to take your passwords everywhere you work. The app is available for download on iOS, Android, and Windows phones. Lost passwords are a thing of the past, and there are fewer things to worry about in the event a device is lost or stolen.
Skycure is a free iPhone app tests all wireless networks in which your phone connects – including the public Wi-Fi at the coffee shop or airport – to make sure there are no breaches. When the app does find a malicious network or malicious activity occurring, it remembers the location so it can warn other users of the threat in the future and issues an alert to your phone. Simple to use, and defends against network attacks. Not bad for a free app! The only weakness is that the app must remain open to provide protection.
NowSecure Mobile is a free and simple yet effective malware sniffer that monitors your Android and iOS device’s system, apps and network to generate a security score. The app notifies you if it detects any risks that may be a threat to your device. With its clean interface, the app offers a fascinating list of features, including a feed where you can check the risks and security vulnerabilities might be cropping up. You’ll receive notifications that alert you about intrusions, and the Security Recommendations feature will advise you on the steps you can take towards securing the device from breaches.
Clueful is a useful security tool that gives insight into which of your apps pose a privacy or security risk in real-time. The app-specific program scans and looks at how the apps installed on a device treat the user’s privacy, and then ranks those apps based on how they access and use sensitive information. Your device will receive a pop up each time you install something new, to inform you whether the app is safe, reasonable, or unsecure. It’s free, available for iOS and Android, and perfect for anyone who regularly hits install on a whim!
Avast! Mobile Security & Antivirus is one of the most comprehensive security apps out there for Android phones. The free version is nearly as good as it gets, and the paid version ($14.99 per year) includes extras like a customizable blacklist and options for rooted devices. Offering excellent malware protection, this app has a spotless interface with easy navigation.
As far as real-time protection, Avast contains an App Shield that automatically scans apps when they are installed and whenever they are launched; a File Shield scans files when they are read and when you write to them; and the Message Shield inspects incoming text messages. There’s also a Web Shield that scans URLs for any viruses and suspicious behavior.
Of course, no security app is perfect and personal vigilance is still required. Security apps like these need to be set-up correctly, checked regularly and updated when new versions come out to ensure they don’t become vulnerability points. While OS updates can be a pain, these updates frequently address the newest security risks.
There are also even simpler steps anyone can take to safeguard mobile devices, like setting phones to lock automatically after one minute, and anonymizing all allowed home screen notifications. Only download apps from reputable vendors, check what newly downloaded apps can access, track, and share, and disable permissions that apps don’t actually require in order to run. Remember, rogue apps are a real threat!
Finally, all the security apps in the world can’t beat just knowing where your device is at all times. Malware threats aside, once your phone is in someone else’s hands, your private information is just a few taps away from becoming public information. Before you decide that securing your smartphone is too complicated, think carefully about how complicated your life will be if that device becomes a target for thieves.
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About the Contributor
Samantha Rivers is a freelance writer who lives in Chicago (Go Cubs!) and loves writing anything in the lifestyle, technology, and career realm both online and print. When she’s not running the Upward Onward blog, she enjoys reading, finding new restaurants, being active outside, and indulging in a glass of wine or two. Follow Samantha on Twitter at @SassySammyBee.