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You carry your smartphone everywhere — and probably store all of your information on it too. Anything that anyone would want to know about you could probably be found in just a few minutes of browsing your device, which makes protecting this information that much more important.
Below are four common digital threats that may come in different forms — from forged emails to free Wi-Fi connections. Taking a few simple steps can help to safeguard both your device, and your personal information, from harm.
Smartphone hackers employ similar tactics to those used by personal computer (PC) hackers to obtain private information. One of the most popular tactics used is known as “spoofed” correspondence.
What is “Spoofing?" “Spoofing” occurs when an email, text message, or other digital correspondence is sent from a forged address, but appears to be from a trusted source. These messages may lead recipients to download a falsified program, or follow links that leave personal information vulnerable to theft.
It is important to use caution when opening and responding to emails because common “spoofs” appear to be from a trustworthy source, like a friend or your bank. However, they typically include an out-of-the-ordinary message or encourage you to click on an embedded link. If you are ever unsure, do not respond to the source or click on the link; delete the email altogether.
“Spoofs” also may occur through messaging apps. Some banks include opt-in services like text message notifications, but will not ask for personal information via these communications. If the message requests that you verify or divulge personal or financial of information, it is likely a “spoofed” message. Clicking on a link may expose your mobile phone or computer, as well as its contents, to hackers, who then may be able to steal information or install malware (a type of software used to damage computers) on your device. If you receive such a message, verify with the source whether or not the message is legitimate.
Just like on a PC, your smartphone may be open to various threats when browsing online. Certain pop-ups, like those stating you have won a prize, are likely a scam.
Similarly, “scareware”, may appear in the form of an ad or a pop-up; they are sometimes flashing or in a bright color, alerting you that your phone may be at risk. It is typically accompanied by a link to an “anti-virus” program download, which is fake.
Whenever you are on the internet, enable your pop-up blocker, and ensure that the sites you may be visiting are trustworthy and secure.
As the smartphone has increased in popularity, the sheer number of applications, or apps, available for download and installation has grown immensely. Ensure that you only install apps from trusted and verified sources. Although not common, hackers may develop apps with the intent to steal information from those who download it.
Be mindful during and after installing apps. Read thoroughly through the agreements, prior to granting “App Permissions” to ensure that no personal information will be shared with the developers or will be given to a third party. Also be sure to review your own privacy settings in the “Settings” tab of your device to ensure that only necessary information will be shared.
When in public, confirm that the “free” Wi-Fi network you may be using is secured. Wi-Fi networks that are not secure can leave users open to threats from hackers who may be able to view your online data, such as usernames and passwords, or account information.
Using a downloadable Virtual Private Network, or VPN, tool will ensure that your data uses a private and encrypted channel, so others in the vicinity will be unable to monitor your activity.
Please refer to the “Watch Out for Free Wi-Fi” article on the Millbury Savings Bank site, which describes Public Wi-Fi usage and threats in depth.
Digital threats are real, but usually avoidable. Taking just a few minutes to check user agreements or simply update your phone’s software could save you in the long run.