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Protecting your personal information isn’t that hard, so why aren’t we doing it?

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More people in the world have smartphones than flushable toilets in India, according to the United Nations [1]. It’s so normal that you don’t even think about all the ways your phone can get hacked.

Smartphones are great for convenience. New technology and features give you easy ways to store information, shop, and conduct financial transactions. But all that convenience may come with a price — your privacy.


And people aren’t even taking the simplest steps to secure their phones. More than a quarter (28 percent) of smartphone users don’t use a lock screen, according to a 2017 Pew Research study [2]. That doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself.

How to stop cellphone hackers

Many Americans aren’t following the best digital security practices. But if using a lock screen is already common sense to you, here are some other ways to protect yourself from getting hacked…

1. Be careful about which apps you download

A study from Malwarebytes noted the growing trend of adware, unwanted software packaged with apps that can get downloaded to your device to monitor what websites you visit. The hijackers can then use your information to target you with unsecure sites and ads.

Never download an app before reading reviews and making sure it’s the one you thought it was. (Malicious apps often pretend to be new or alternate versions of popular ones.) Always check what permissions it’s asking for. Is there any reason for it to access your photos, camera, or microphone?

Even legitimate apps can risk your privacy if you don’t understand the settings. This costs nothing but a few moments to learn what’s going on.

2. Don’t connect to unsecure Wi-Fi

Access to Wi-Fi is necessary today, especially since 77 percent of Americans have a smartphone [3] and spend almost 9 hours a day on their phones and laptops [4].

With more and more businesses offering free Wi-Fi, people are increasingly accessing unsecured Wi-Fi. Logging on to these networks without a password requirement is dangerous, according to identity theft protection company Identity Guard [5].

When a Wi-Fi network is open, identity thieves use what’s called sniffer software to monitor traffic from devices to the unsecure network [6]. They then capture login information from websites and apps used by people connected to the network.

Hackers also perform a technique called “side-jacking,” where they clone your information while logged into your account on a website [7]. Cyberthieves are able to perform any task that you can, while logged into that site on an open Wi-Fi connection.

3. Don’t save your credit card information

While storing your credit card information in a virtual wallet has become much more secure over the years, they can still be dangerous.

There is no way to decrypt a virtual wallet code, and the code wouldn’t be useful outside of the phone. So, if you can keep track of your phone, you’re safe. But if it gets lost or stolen, you could be in trouble.

If someone figures out how to breach your screen lock (your first line of defense), they have full reigns to a spending spree with your money. It might be worth it to take the extra minute to input your credit card information anyway.

4. Limit online shopping from your smartphone

Fifty-five percent of consumers think fraud is part online shopping, says a study from global payments company Paysafe. We simply accept we’re going to get hacked and there’s no way to stop it.

As technology becomes implemented into everything we do, how are we supposed to monitor our security? Unfortunately, we care more about convenience than self-protection of our data. Or we could just sacrifice the convenience for peace of mind.

5. Install an antivirus software

People continue to debate the usefulness of antivirus programs for phones [8]. Especially Apple’s, which have seen virtually no malicious software because of the company’s tight grasp on both the operating system and what goes in its App Store.

Android, which is an open-source platform and comes in far more flavors, is more hackable. So, it also has some good antivirus options, the best of which is free [9].

For more ways to protect yourself from hacking, visit Debt.com’s how-to guide to protecting yourself from online identity theft.

Cameren Boatner contributed to this report. 

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Meet the Author

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn

Writer

Zinn is a freelance journalist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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