Smartphones have changed the face of parenting in profound ways. But for all the efficiency they’ve introduced into family life, those same devices simultaneously bring risk.
With smartphone and tablet use growing at ten times the rate of PCs, hackers know precisely where to shift their focus these days. Cyber thieves love smartphones because once inside, they can access private information, location, email, photos, social media, and bank accounts.
If you’re a parent, a smartphone breach is an even bigger deal. Shoring up the security gaps in your phone isn’t a big deal but what about the other four or more smartphones under your roof? If you were to multiply the risk, you’d soon realize the potential havoc that’s looming.
While you can’t shut out every digital risk, you can tackle the most prominent ones. Let’s get started!
8 Ways to Hack-Proof Your Family’s Smartphones
- Think Like a Criminal. Work a potential hack backward. Look at every possible entryway into your phone and ask yourself, “How could I get into this phone if I were determined?” Then, methodically lock up each digital door. Challenge yourself to find every security gap. Examine your password strength, social profiles, web browsing security, general and app settings.
- Juice Up Your Password. How do you create a password that a criminal can’t hack? With great intention and a few extra layers. 1) Avoid the common error of using easy passwords such as “12345” or “password.” Get complex and create a combination that isn’t logical. 2) Use multi-factor authentication (MFA). Having multiple factors to authenticate your phone use such as your fingerprint, face, or a trusted device, increases security. Most smartphones offer MFA so, even if it seems tedious, use it. The more factors — or digital layers — you can combine, the more protected your smartphone will be. Too many passwords crowding your brain? Consider a password manager.
- Trust No App. Not all apps you download to your phone are created equal. Many third-party apps do not go through rigorous security vetting of Google or Apple. Hackers can infect apps with malware or viruses that demolish your phone’s security and allow hackers access to your data. Beware. Examine all apps, read reviews, and steer clear of apps that ask for too much access. Even legitimate apps can be used for malicious purposes such as listening in via a phone’s microphones and even spying using a phone’s camera. To pull back an app’s access, just go to your settings. On Android: Go to Apps and Notifications, choose App Permissions and make changes. On iOS: Go to your settings, select Privacy, and make changes to app permissions accordingly.
- Passcode, Track Your Phone. Be proactive in case your phone gets stolen or lost. Make sure your device is passcode and fingerprint protected. Take a few minutes to enable phone tracking. For Android, you’ll download the app Find My Device and for Apple use Find My iPhone. Make sure those apps are always enabled on your phone. If your phone is lost or stolen it can be tracked online.
- Log out, Lock Online Services. If you bank, shop, or access sensitive accounts via your smartphone do it with extreme care. This means logging out and locking those accounts when not in use and avoiding using auto-login features. Instead, use a password manager app the forces you to re-enter a master password each time you want to access an account. It’s worth the extra step. An essential part of this equation is disabling keychain and auto-fill in your browser. You can do this by finding your web browser in Settings and toggling each option to OFF. Also, avoid using public Wi-Fi for accessing sensitive accounts or conducting any transactions.
- Turn Off Bluetooth. Bluetooth carries inherent vulnerabilities and is another open door for hackers to enter. When Bluetooth is turned on it is constantly looking for other open connections. Hackers work quickly through open Bluetooth connections, and often victims don’t even know there’s been a breach (there’s no evidence a phone has connected with a criminal source). Make sure to switch Bluetooth off if you are not using it.
- Take Updates Seriously. Because people design phones, phones will be flawed. And, it’s just a matter of time before a hacker discovers and exploits those flaws. Developers use updates to combat all kinds of breaches, which make them critical to your phone’s security. Along with staying on top of updates, consider the added safeguard of antivirus, identity, and privacy protection that covers all family devices.
- Stop! Don’t Click that Link. Unless you are 100% sure of the legitimacy of a link sent to you through text, email, or direct message, do not click it. Random links sent by hackers to access your data are getting more and more sophisticated as well as destructive.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures).