Security · October 01, 2020

Staying Secure on Your Mobile Device

Most people in the US have a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. While mobile tech was once used mainly for making voice calls, it's now commonplace to pay for a purchase or review a bank statement on the go. As people rely on devices for increasingly sensitive tasks, mobile security has become crucial for protecting personal information. A few commonsense precautions can help guard your data.

Keep your mobile device locked

Have you ever set your phone down on a table, then accidentally walked away without it? If your device is unlocked, letting it out of your sight for a few minutes gives anyone nearby a chance to open it up and find your personal information. That's why it's best to protect your device with a password, fingerprint swipe or facial recognition. Set your device to automatically lock within a short time (such as one minute) when it's not in use.

Select secure apps

Download apps only from the Apple App store or the Google Play store, which are required to meet basic mobile security standards. Don't install apps that you find on other sites or that you receive in message attachments.

Choose strong passwords

Criminals love short passwords containing dictionary words or default codes like "1234". Choose passwords that are at least 13 characters long—it's a good idea to make it a phrase or sentence that's memorable but not easily guessed. Avoid using names as passwords, and don't pick a password that includes your personal information, like your birthday or ZIP code. Don't use the same password for all your devices and apps: If cybercriminals got their hands on that password, they could get in to all your accounts.

Update your operating system frequently

If your mobile device's manufacturer discovers a new security weakness, regular updates to its operating system and apps can fix the problems—but updates only protect you if they're installed. Check for updates frequently so you can benefit from beefed-up security as soon as possible. You may want to set up automatic updates so your software stays current, regardless of whether or not you remember to download the latest versions.

Be careful with public Wi-Fi

Many security breaches happen on public networks. Someone who logs on to the network while you're using it (or who just looks over your shoulder in a busy room) might be able to grab some of your personal data. Don't use Wi-Fi hotspots that aren't password protected. To be extra safe, try to avoid accessing your financial and legal accounts in public places where you can't be certain of privacy.

Audit your settings

Use privacy settings on apps to manage what's shared and who sees it. If you don't want your activity tracked, turn off location sharing—you can enable it when you need it for maps and directions.

Watch out for phishing scammers

Be aware that scammers may pose as people or companies you trust to collect sensitive information or gain access to your device. Don't respond to calls, emails or text messages asking you to share personal details, to log in to an account or to install software. If you're not sure whether a request is from a legitimate source, use the contact information you had previously—not a number or address from the suspicious message—to ask that person if the message is from them.

Following security guidelines helps keep your personal information private. When you take these simple steps to prevent your data from falling into the wrong hands, you can feel confident about using your mobile devices for all your on-the-go needs.


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This information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal or tax advice. First Citizens Bank (or its affiliates) neither endorses nor guarantees this information, and encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.