How to Protect Your Mobile Phone from Cyberattacks

When it comes to cybercrime, many consumers understandably think of it happening in the usual places – email scams, social media hacks and credit card fraud. But many people fail to protect the most used item in their pockets: their phones. Cyberattacks on mobile phones are rising, leaving people at risk of having their information stolen. As people spend more time in front of these screens and store some of their most sensitive data directly on their mobile devices, it’s easy to see why phones have become such big targets. 

“The widespread adoption of mobile devices has attracted cybercriminals to exploit their vulnerabilities, leading to an increase in mobile device attacks,” adds Northwest Bank fraud manager Amylynn Delgado.

However, there are ways to mitigate your risk, no matter what you use your mobile devices for and how much time you spend on them. Delgado shares her expertise on how to help keep your data safe and secure.

A hub for your most important data

Along with being the central repository for your communications and memories, mobile devices have evolved to enable us to do important tasks like banking, sending payments and making appointments, meaning more of our information is stored on our phones than ever before. 

Delgado points out that private data, such as your Social Security Number, date of birth, credit and debit card details, online banking information, medical information, usernames and passwords, contact list and photos, could all be stolen in the event of cybercrime.

One way to think about it: almost any information you’ve ever entered on your phone can be harnessed by cyberattackers via apps and web-based mobile threats.

Key steps to protect yourself

There’s a wide range of steps you can take to protect your sensitive data and media, and many of them don’t cost any money at all. 

You can start with securing your physical device by protecting it with a strong numerical passcode. If you are given the option to use a PIN longer than four digits, Delgado strongly recommends doing so. Additionally, if your device offers biometric identification, such as fingerprint sensors or facial recognition, it can help to enable it.

Apps can also be a key entry point for cyberattacks, as nearly all of them collect data from your phone and store information on servers that can be hacked, causing data leaks.

“Cyber criminals create malicious apps that, once installed, can steal your data or money. They sometimes hide inside well-known and valuable free apps that exploit vulnerabilities or take advantage of specific permissions to download the malicious aspect into the phone,” says Delgado. “It is essential that when an app asks for these permissions that its use is justified.” She strongly recommends installing anti-virus programs to your smartphone to help spot these malicious apps and being especially careful downloading apps that request many permissions.

Additionally, if you’re using public Wi-Fi or an unfamiliar network, be especially careful with your most sensitive data, such as banking or payment information, says Delgado. “Attackers can create phony Wi-Fi hotspots designed to attack mobile phones and may patrol public Wi-Fi networks for unsecured devices,” she says. She also recommends disabling Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not in use, as “cybercriminals can exploit vulnerabilities in software that uses these interfaces.”

It’s also important to have a banking partner who prioritizes cybersecurity. Northwest offers Security and Card Alerts, which allow you to request and receive secure messages and card alerts when certain events occur, such as a new device detected. Additionally, Account Alerts provide notice of important account activity or changes. You can select to receive alerts via email or text to make sure you see them in the places you check most.

Additionally, Delgado says don’t forget about the most tried-and-true cybersecurity steps: use unique usernames and strong passwords for each account, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) when available for both apps and websites and avoid using the “remember me” or “remember your password” features in your web browser, which provide easier access for cybercriminals.

Security going forward

One simple step to keep protecting yourself is to make sure you stay on top of security updates. When your mobile phone provider sends out operating system updates or apps prompt you to download a new version, always opt-in. These updates often include security patches that reduce your risk of exposure to cybercrime.

Understanding evolving crime schemes and vulnerabilities can help you secure your information in the future, too.

“Staying informed about recent cyberattacks and cybersecurity trends is crucial for individuals to protect themselves from cyber threats,” says Delgado. “There are numerous blogs and websites that offer in-depth coverage of current and future trends through daily or weekly updates. Additionally, The Federal Trade Commission regularly publishes consumer alerts providing information on trending scams, fraud schemes and how to avoid them.”

Perhaps more than anything, however, is your vigilance. “Be aware of suspicious links and never click on a link before verifying its source,” says Delgado. As for protecting your finances, she adds: “Remember, banks will never call you and ask you for your personal identifiers, account or card numbers, your online banking username or password or one-time code.”

Further protecting yourself and your information

It’s always important to look to the future, but Delgado says the best time to start protecting yourself from cybercrime is now. And we’re here to help. Connect with Northwest Bank experts today to learn more about protecting yourself from cyberthreats.