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Cyber Safety 101: Smartphones are Smart, but They’re Not Always Secure

By Diane Amato

Published October 4, 2022 • 4 Min Read

Cybercrime is rising in Canada, affecting individuals, families and businesses alike. That’s the bad news. The good news is that being cyber safe doesn’t take a lot of work — instead, it’s a matter of knowing what to do to keep hackers and scammers out of your systems and accounts. Our Cyber Safety 101 series is designed to give you some basic tools and tips that can go a long way to protecting yourself, your family and your data in the digital world.

When it comes to keeping your smartphone secure, there are two things to consider: Protecting the device from loss or theft and protecting the data you’ve stored on it.

Although the replacement cost of a lost or stolen phone can be high (the average global price of a smartphone was $363 in 2021, and the latest models sell for $1,600+), the bigger issue that comes with a phone gone missing is the valuable data it holds. Of course, a phone can also be hacked when sitting beside you in a coffee shop, so even if you don’t let your phone out of your sight, it’s important to take steps to lock it down from cyber thieves.

Here are 8 ways to keep your mobile device secure.

1. Be smart about Wi-Fi

If you’ve been following along with the Cyber Safety 101 series, you’ll remember our 4 Steps to Wi-Fi Safety. Smart Wi-Fi habits don’t only apply to your laptop or tablet — they’re also essential when using your smartphone on a public network. To that end, avoid accessing or inputting private and sensitive data while your smartphone is connected to Wi-Fi and use a VPN network whenever possible.

2. Install updates when they’re available

Although software updates can sometimes feel like a pain, they guard against risks and vulnerabilities, making your smartphone more secure from hackers. (They also tend to introduce new features and fix known bugs in the operating system, improving the function of your device.)

3. Be mindful about your apps

Ever install a “free” app that asks for loads of personal information before you can download it? You’re paying for that app with your information, and those excessive questions and permissions may expose you to fraudulent activity. Don’t install — or make sure you uninstall — those nosey apps or any apps you’re no longer using.

4. Make it hard to unlock

When you use biometrics (i.e., your face, fingerprint or voice) to unlock your phone — combined with a tricky passcode — you make it tougher for someone else to open it up and access your data.

5. Turn off Bluetooth when you’re not using it

Bluetooth can be a gateway for hackers to get into your phone, so it’s smart to turn it off when you don’t need to use it.

6. Back it up

Regularly backing up your data can help reduce the loss of precious photos, files and other information. Plus, if a hacker freezes you out of your phone and demands money for access to your data, having a recent backup makes you less vulnerable.

7. Turn on “Find My” tools

If your smartphone is lost or stolen, having “Find My Device” activated can help you not only locate your device but also lock it and/ or wipe the data from it from afar, keeping your private information out of the hands of cyber thieves. That backup will come in handy here.

8. Reset it before returning

Upgrading a device every few years is part of the typical cycle of smartphone use. When you’re ready to trade yours in, reset it to the factory settings before you do, so no personal data remains for others to discover.

Looking for more great tips? Our Cyber Security Playbook, The Vault, is packed with great tips for making your passwords stronger and harder to crack. And it has more helpful steps and information to boost your cyber skills.

Visit The Vault for more tips on how to protect yourself, your family & your online activities.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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