Keeping your personal data safe from hackers has never been more important, particularly as spending online has increased during the Covid crisis and we are now in the ‘spend-spend-spend’ period approaching Christmas.
In the wrong hands, stolen data can be used by hackers for illegal activity such as applying for loans or credit cards under a victim’s name, or bank accounts being accessed and money withdrawn.
To help you keep your personal data safe, here are some tips on how you can help to protect your personal data that is stored on your mobile device.
Be cautious of public Wi-Fi
Using public Wi-Fi is convenient and great for those who have a low data allowance, or are running out of mobile data. However, publicly available networks often don’t provide a secure connection, making it easy for hackers to use them to access personal data.
Hackers targeting publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots can use what is known as a ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack, which is when a hacker intercepts personal information, such as passwords, financial information and log-in details through a public network. Be aware that this is possible even if you are using an encrypted (HTTPS) session.
Always avoid using mobile banking apps or making online purchases whilst logged into a public Wi-Fi network. If you really need to use public Wi-Fi, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app. A VPN can protect data from getting into the wrong hands by encrypting online data and keeping personal information secure.
Turn off ‘sharing’ settings when not in use
Smartphone features that share a location should be used with caution and always turned off when not in use. Features such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, location services, mobile data and Near Field Communication (NFC) are susceptible to hacking, especially Bluetooth location services as they transmit a device’s location and presence.
Hackers can easily get hold of personal information and data through features that mark a phone as ‘visible’, so ensure you disable these features when you don’t need them.
Only download legitimate apps
Downloading illegitimate apps is a way to lose your personal data up to hackers. Often, apps hosted on some websites or third-party app stores can contain malware and can access your data once downloaded.
Only download apps from the official app stores, so App Store for iOS users, Google Play for Android users or the App Gallery for Huawei owners.
Be wary of app permissions
When an app is first downloaded, it often asks for ‘permission’ to access certain features or information held on a mobile phone. From the camera roll, to your speaker, location or phone contact list, apps can ask for a range of permissions in order for certain functions to work. We are often in a hurry to use the app, so it is all too easy to click ‘accept’ on the permissions request.
Be cautious of what information an app is requesting access to and question whether the app actually needs that information. For example, a photo editing app doesn’t need contact list information in order to function correctly, so take the time to properly think about whether or not that information is needed.
You should have a separate, strong password for each account you use across different retailers.
Don’t reuse any of your passwords on different websites, and also avoid relying on using your own ‘system’ to differentiate them from each other, such as adding a number or a code to a common password for different sites) as these are easy for a hacker to work out.
Avoid using the auto-login feature of web browsers. Whilst it’s recommended to have a variety of passwords for online accounts rather than the same password, auto-login gives hackers easy access to personal data by simply opening up an app or webpage.
What to do if your mobile phone is stolen
It’s not just when you are using your mobile phone that can open your personal data up to hackers. What happens if your mobile phone is lost or stolen? Here are some useful tips if you find yourselves in this scenario and want to keep your personal data safe:
- Firstly, report the phone as missing to your network provider (Jersey Telecom, Sure or Airtel in the Channel Islands), who can suspend or disconnect the service to the phone. This can help stop any authorised use of the phone if it falls into the wrong hands.
- If the mobile phone is known to be stolen, inform the police who will be able to provide a crime number, which can be used if you need to inform an insurance provider.
- Most smartphones now have a built in ‘kill switch’, which can allow a user to remotely deactivate a device if it’s lost or stolen. In order to work, the feature needs to be enabled.
- For iPhone users, the ‘Activation Lock’ can be enabled within the ‘Find My’ app to help keep data safe. Firstly, go to the ‘Find My’ app > Tap the devices tab and choose which device is lost or stolen, then tap Activate under ‘Mark as Lost’ and follow the prompts on screen.
- Android users can enable the kill switch with ‘Find My Device’. Go to Settings >Google>Security, then turn on ‘Remotely locate this device’ and ‘Allow remote lock and erase’.
- Finally, immediately change passwords for any accounts or apps that can be accessed on the mobile phone. Prioritise any important accounts first, such as online banking and other associated accounts.
Richard Gray, Head of Marketing and Digital, at Insurance2go said: “Our mobile phones are home to lots of stored data and without correctly protecting your personal information, it could easily land in the wrong hands.
“Protecting data stored on a mobile phone is extremely important. Hackers are often creating new ways to get a hold of our data, so we hope that by sharing our tips, we can help people avoid getting caught out by fraudsters.”
For insurance services – Channel Islands and the Isles of Man residents, please note that Insurance2go only covers customers in the United Kingdom.