Mobile Device Security

Everywhere you look you see people of all ages utilizing smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other devices to thrive in an online, connected world. Utilizing these devices for work and for pleasure can be extremely convenient and entertaining, but these benefits can come at a very high price if leveraged by a cyber-criminal to gain access to your financial accounts and other sensitive data.

Many people go to great lengths to protect their devices, purchasing insurance in the event of breakage and high-performance cases to defend against scratches, dents, and dings. While protecting the device is important, the data held within the device is worth far more but is often not protected accordingly.

There are a number of best practices that you can follow to protect the data stored on the device and to improve mobile security to defend against a cyber-attack.

Know Your Risk

Let’s start by considering the worst-case scenario.

Imagine if your phone or device was stolen. What type of information could the criminal potentially have access to? Would the costs of having information stolen be worth the convenience of having certain items at your fingertips?

Would certain data on your phone make you vulnerable to cybercriminals looking to sell your data to the highest bidder, threatening your financial stability or possibly your reputation? If this is the case, evaluate these areas of security and be more mindful of how you are storing and sharing information on your device.

Did you know…

  • One laptop is stolen every 53 seconds.
  • 70 million smartphones are lost each year, with only 7 percent recovered.
  • 4.3 percent of company-issued smartphones are lost or stolen every year.
  • 80 percent of the cost of a lost laptop is from a data breach.
  • 52 percent of devices are stolen from the office/workplace, and 24 percent from conferences.i

Most mobile device users have either lost a device or had it stolen or know someone who has. To reduce the risk of becoming another statistic, care and attention should be taken when using mobile devices in public places. Do not let your device out of your sight. If you have to leave it unattended try to keep it physically locked away or otherwise secured. When traveling be sure to transport your device as carry-on luggage when possible. Further, if you must leave it in a vehicle make sure that you place it in the trunk or other secured area BEFORE you arrive at your destination.

Know Your Security Settings

Most devices today have security settings. The easiest and most effective way to safeguard your data is to set a password as soon as you get the new device. Using a six-character password or a passphrase can reduce the risk of data being accessed by a tech-savvy criminal.

When you have your password set, do not share it with anyone else. If you must make an exception for someone you trust, be sure to change the password after they have finished using it.

Many phones come with voicemail passwords preprogrammed. If your device has this feature, change it immediately to a private password that is difficult to guess. Additionally, a number of smartphones allow a user to access voicemail from any phone. This feature makes voicemail vulnerable to hacking. Follow the prompts that require a password to retrieve voicemail from the device or remotely by activating password settings.

If your device offers a remote find capability, please consider using it. Once enabled, your device can be remotely locked or wiped, while displaying a message so that an honest finder of the phone may return it. If the person is not honest, the phone can be remotely wiped. This is a good safeguard in case your phone ends up in the wrong hands.

Yes, There’s an App for That, But is it Safe?

Who doesn’t love an app? For work or play, apps have made us more efficient and placed entertainment at our fingertips. However, some of these apps have known “malware” that try to steal information from your phone. To offset the risk, there are mobile security apps that will check your phone for malware and notify you if any are found.

Even these protections are not foolproof, so be cautious and only download apps from a reputable seller or site.

Look for an app that lets you control your phone remotely in the event that it is stolen. Some apps can give you full control of your phone should it be stolen, allowing you to track its location or even to completely wipe all personal data stored on the phone.

Many apps require permission to access contacts, calendars, and photos, which means that it can access and copy your information anytime and as often as the application wants. Be mindful of how much access you are granting apps. To reduce your risk of a malware infection, be cautious of malware apps that are bundled with popular games being offered for free through a third-party store. Those offers that sound too good to be true should raise a red flag.

Private Eyes are Watching You

According to, third-party analytics companies are gathering your physical movements to determine what stores you enter, for how long, and which stores you bypass, and then selling that data to retailers.  They are able to do this by tracking the unique MAC address included in broadcasts your device sends out when updating the list of available Wi-Fi networks, even when you don’t connect to these networks or take any action.

If your device is Bluetooth capable, make sure the ‘Discoverable’ mode is disabled. This prevents your phone from being detected by others scanning for Bluetooth devices in the area. This is the default setting on nearly all newer phones.

Backup Your Data

Use backup services that you trust or that sync well with your devices to ensure that, should your phone get stolen, you have important data safely stored for easy access.

To Recap

Taking the following actions will help you protect your information stored on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets:

  • Set a strong password of at least six characters on your device
  • Set a password for your voicemail account
  • Store your device securely when not in use
  • Be careful of the apps that you download and install on your devices
  • Follow best practices for securing your particular device such as turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Try to back up your data at least once a week to ensure that if your device is lost or stolen that your data can be recovered