Friday, 14 February 2014 00:00

Being smart about Smartphones

The Future is Already Here!

beingmsartThose of us past a certain age could scarcely have imagined the power of the technology that has been developed in recent years. Anyone who remembers the days before personal computers and the birth of the Internet is likely to still be constantly amazed at how far we have come in a few short decades. And most of us are still struggling to stay abreast of the new developments which continue to appear at a sometimes alarming rate.

Smartphones are a good example - a smartphone is really just a miniature computer with almost all the power of a home computer and a lot of advantages that even your fancy desktop can’t compete with. Of course, the main difference are size and portability. With today’s smartphones, users have access to almost all the same features of a home computer - you can surf the web, send emails, share photos and videos, do your banking online and much more.

Smartphone technology has revolutionized the way many of us live our daily lives and before too long, almost everyone is likely to own one. Over half of Americans now own a smartphone and sales continue to increase. Smartphones are becoming cheaper and more powerful all the time, and even those of us who have avoided purchasing one for whatever reasons seem to be reluctantly giving in to the trend. Owning a smartphone is no longer just a luxury or a status symbol - for many of us, they have become indispensable tools, just as home computers have become over the past few decades.

The Rise of Smartphone Apps

Software developers have seized the opportunities offered by smartphone technology. There are countless phone apps on the market now, many of them free of charge, that perform an astonishing variety of tasks. Some are very useful tools, such as GPS location apps, others are for entertainment purposes only, like online gaming apps. In 2012, there were 1.2 billion users of phone apps worldwide and by 2017 that number is expected to increase to 4.4 billion.

There is an app for almost anything you can imagine and many of them you would probably never have dreamed of. There are apps for browsing, sending emails, social networking. streaming music and videos, instant messaging and much more. In 2013, there were well over 50 billion apps downloaded by smartphone users and estimates are that by 2017 the number could be as high as 200 million!

Is There a Downside?

As with all technology, there is the potential of misuse and smartphones are no exception. Your smartphone contains a huge amount of personal information and if your device is stolen, there could be disastrous consequences. It’s not all that difficult to get past the security that is designed to deny access by unauthorized users of your device, and once in, a thief can cause havoc in your personal life and even financial ruin.

Your smartphone contains intimate details about you and your personal life, as well as financial data that could be used to drain your bank account and/or ruin your reputation. If you have anything at all to hide - and even innocent people have plenty that they would no doubt prefer not to reveal about themselves - the theft of your smartphone could have some extremely negative consequences.

A relatively knowledgeable criminal could use your smartphone to gain access to your bank account or credit card and within hours could theoretically wipe out your savings or run up an enormous bill on your credit card. This may not be easy to accomplish, but there are those who are capable of doing it and it has happened to far too many victims already.

Another potential threat is having a criminal gain access to your personal information. This could be sensitive data related to your career and business or simply intimate details of your personal life that could be used against you in a number of ways.

If you use your smartphone in public (and who doesn’t?) you are always at risk of theft. Even if your device is locked in your car or in your home or office, there is always the chance that it may end up in a thief or burglar’s hands. Unfortunately, there is no foolproof method of protecting your smartphone against theft or loss. However, there are some measures you can take to prevent easy access of your vital personal information and financial data.

Basic Protection Against Smartphone Information Theft

beingmsartHere are a few tips for protecting you and your smartphone data:

Passwords - this may seem obvious to most of us, but often people neglect to employ effective password protection. A four-digit password is better than nothing, but it is recommended that you use a strong password to prevent easy access to your device. Never use “0000” as a password for your smartphone.

Security Software - It is highly recommended that you install a security system app to add a higher level of protection to your device. There are a number of good apps available with features such as remote data wiping, malware protection and security advisors.

Automatic Locking - Almost all modern smartphones have an automatic locking system. Set it to lock the phone automatically after a few minutes of inactivity.

Encryption - Passwords can be easily bypassed by a savvy thief. Using encryption can help immensely in protecting your vital personal data.

Apps - Make sure you only download trusted apps. Even Google has had problems recently with apps from their store being infected with malware, so beware. Never install an app that you know little about. Read user reviews before installing any app and make certain that it comes from a reliable source.

WiFi, Bluetooth and NFC - Be sure to turn off these functions when you are not using them. The very thing that makes smartphones so useful - easy connectivity - can also be used against you by criminals. Unsecured networks can be dangerous - make sure you are not allowing your data to be accessed through them.

Emails and Texts - Be sure not to click on any links you are unsure about. Phishing scams are common and you should be on guard against them. These scams are not limited to emails - text messages can contain malicious links, too.

Updates - Be sure to update your OS regularly. Often updates contain important security fixes. If you don’t want automatic updates, then at least be on the alert for the ones that address security problems.

Using a Cell Phone Tracker

One very effective means of protecting your smartphone data is to install a spyware app onto the device. Although spyware is most commonly used to secretly monitor another person’s targeted phone - such as a child or employee - these apps can be very useful in protecting your smartphone data if the device is lost or stolen. A cell phone tracker can also be used to recover your phone.

iconeCell phone trackers are referred to by several terms: spyware, spy phone apps, phone monitoring apps, etc., but they all are basically the same thing. Most cell phone trackers offer several useful features in the case of loss or theft. First, many of these apps have remote locking features which can be activated from a distance of the phone is lost. If you’re sure the phone has been stolen, some cell phone trackers offer remote data wiping as well, although this function should be used as a last resort, because once the data is erased it cannot be recovered.

Another important feature that is available with most of these spyware apps is the GPS locator function. This feature allows you to view exactly where the phone is at any time, as well as the route it has taken. This can be invaluable in recovering the device - if it has merely been lost or misplaced, you’ll be able to pinpoint its current location on a map that is available on the control panel of your personal account that you activate when the app is first installed.

If you have children, it’s a wise idea to install a cell phone tracker onto their smartphones, anyway. These apps are very effective for monitoring a child’s activities and protecting them against the many potential dangers that lurk online. The threat of cyber-bullying is quite real - 1 in 4 children report having been the victims of bullies online and keeping an eye on your teen’s online activities can help protect them from harm. There is also the danger of online sexual predators, so many parents have opted for using spyware as a safeguard against them.

Since smartphones aren’t cheap, and children sometimes can be careless, the GPS locator can be a very valuable feature - it can also be very useful in keeping an eye on the whereabouts of your child.

Summary

The purpose of this article is not to scare you away from buying a smartphone. If you’re aware and take the necessary preventative measures, owning and using a smartphone is relatively safe, and if current trends continue, there will soon be a day when those who don’t own a smartphone will be a very tiny minority. Learn now how to protect yourself and your personal data and you should have little or no problems in the future regarding your smartphone and all the information it contains.

Last modified on Tuesday, 24 February 2015 12:14