September 19, 2020

Bucks: Protecting Your Smartphone

A few years ago, my husband left his old-fashioned cellphone in his car overnight and a thief broke in and snatched it. By the time we realized it was gone and notified our cellular carrier, the thief had run up a few hundred dollars of calls — a unwelcome expense, but hardly devastating.

But smartphones are a different story. As they get ever smarter and house more of your personal information, extra charges on your phone bill are the least of the potential risks.

E-mails, texts and contact lists may contain sensitive information or passwords, and your browser may even have financial data, if you bank online. “Think of it as a very small laptop, because it’s really a computer,” says John Sileo, an authority in Denver on identity theft and privacy who has compiled a primer on smartphone security.

Mr. Sileo recommends using a password to protect your phone and getting features that let you remotely lock the device and erase its data, in the event it is lost or stolen. Such systems typically require you to log onto a Web site, or send a message to your phone from another phone to shut it down.

Users of the iPhone can get the remote “lock and wipe” feature through services like “Mobile Me;” users of Android phones can use Lookout Mobile Security, or other software programs from makers like Bullguard or Kaspersky.

Regardless of what you use, you should test the system before you really need it. An episode involving a remote lock feature on an HTC smartphone that didn’t work as advertised got some attention recently on the Web (thanks to The Consumerist for sharing this). A spokeswoman for HTC in Bellevue, Wash., said no one was available to comment.

Mr. Sileo says locking the phone remotely may be helpful if you fear you’ve simply misplaced it. But if it was stolen by a thief trolling for data, the ability to wipe your phone clean quickly is crucial. In that case, your password works mainly to slow down the culprit long enough for you to activate the erase function.

Some risk experts argue that security firms have overblown some smartphone threats — like those from “malware,” or malicious software programs.

But Mr. Sileo said it still pays to be careful when downloading apps — software programs written for smartphones and other mobile devices — which are tempting, because they’re cheap and quick to obtain. Even legitimate programs can give you more than you bargained for. App providers are coming under scrutiny for collecting information about you from your smartphone without proper disclosure.

Perhaps the most important way to safeguard your phone is to keep it close at hand: “Don’t leave it on the table when you go for a refill at Starbucks,” Mr. Sileo advised.

Do you use security software on your smartphone? Have you ever had to use your remote lock and wipe function?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=cf45a988a2ed25ed53c95c329daff8f8

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