Smartphones can be a serious security risk

Federal Communications Commision releases a security check list for all smartphone users

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), smartphones robberies are  rising steadily.

In New York City, for example, 40 percent of all robberies involve smartphones or cell phones, and in Washington D.C., smartphone robberies were up by 54 percent compared to 2011, says the government agency.

And it’s not only in the big cities that smartphone crimes are increasing, as 30 to 40 percent of all robberies throughout the country involved the pricey electronic gadgets, and unless consumers really start applying a good old-fashioned dose of vigilance, the number of smartphone thefts will only continue to increase in the years to come.

To help prevent this from happening, the FCC has released what it calls the “Smartphone Security Checker”--an outline that smartphone users can follow to make sure their personal information is kept secure if their device is ever stolen or hacked into.

The ten-point check system serves as both a guideline and a reminder for consumers to follow and each suggestion seems to be made up of common-sense reminders and security tips that are pretty obvious but may have eluded some users along the way.

Watch those apps

One example--be wary about changing the security settings on your phone once it’s purchased, as altering the default settings may dramatically diminish the phone's ability to block hackers and secure your personal data.

The FCC also suggests you be extremely leery of the apps you choose to download, and to make sure you’re getting apps from a trusted source.

Since there seems to be an application for just about everything these days, consumers can easily download something that’s harmful to their phone out of sheer habit or choose to blindly trust a certain app just because it has a lot of uses.

The security checklist also warns consumers to check the reviews of an app to see if it really works as promised before downloading it, and people should do a bit of research on the store that the app comes from, just to make sure it’s a legitimate source.

It’s also imperative that consumers know how an app works before giving it permission to carry out different functions on your smartphone and users should also familiarize the privacy settings on each app before using it, says the FCC.

Post-theft protection

An app that’s really smart for consumers to download is one that allows you to erase your personal data after your phone has been lost or stolen, which some phones are equipped with upon purchase.

The FCC says these security apps are extremely important for each smartphone user to have because it also allows them to remove stored data, even if the GPS tracker is turned off.

The government agency also says to be particularly careful when using Wi-Fi networks that are open to the public, and in actuality, consumers should really limit their use of these places in exchange for using Wi-Fi services that are from a known network.

Also, many consumers don’t take the same security precautions that they do with their laptops and home computers, although smartphones are used more frequently these days and have a bigger potential to become lost or stolen.

PINs

For this very reason, setting passwords and PINs is essential as the phone's home screen is truly the protective shield of the device--and if the right security measures are put in place, a thief will have a much harder time cracking into your personal information and using it for God knows what.

And we all know those little pop-up reminders that tell us to update our phone’s software can be annoying, but the FCC says these updates can better help your phone block out hackers and those questionable sources that may use malware to steal your info.

Some smartphones are equipped to automatically remind you of these software updates while others have to be enabled, but either way these updates at least try to keep up with the new ways that people are able to steal your information.

All things considered, the checkpoint system put together by the FCC is a useful one, and consumers will probably be reminded of some measure they’ve heard in the past, combined with new ideas to keep their data safe, because it will take a consistent level of proactivity to make sure a hacker or smartphone thief isn’t walking away with all of your stored information.

Because if that happens, a heap of potentially serious problems can develop that can be really hard to remedy, and nobody wants that.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.
Consumer Affairs

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