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Protect Your Identity Week

Identity Protection, Smartphone Risks

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

National Protect Your Identity Week (PYIW) is October 20-27. This year’s theme, “ID Theft Protection on the Go,” draws special attention to the increased risks posed by smartphones and mobile technology.

We all love our cell phones, but with the convenience of smart phones also comes the opportunity for thieves to help themselves to our personal information.

A Smartphone is a mobile phone with enhanced capabilities.  Many of these new functions are similar to those found on a PC.  Information, carried on and transmitted through the device, is highly desired for use by identity thieves. There are steps Smartphone users can take in order to reduce the risks associated with using these handy devices.

Risks which occur when using a Smartphone:

  • Phones are easily lost or stolen. Think about how many times you have lost your cell phone. Enough said.

  • These mobile devices are associated with and linked to a particular user for billing and account purposes. This association is taken a step further when GPS is enabled on a device.
  • Increased mobility means increased exposure. Moving in and out of Wi-Fi service areas means moving in and out of firewalls and secure hotspots.
  • Some applications used on smartphones are unsafe. Some can actually enable “phishing” or other malicious attacks.

Best practices to protect yourself and your personal information:

  • Password-protect your phone. This is the simplest step you can take to prevent your information from being accessed. Make sure it is a strong password that is not similar to or associated with any other personal information.
  • The same precautions you would take while on your home computer apply to your Smartphone. Double check URLs for accuracy, don’t open suspicious links, and make sure a site is secure (https) before giving any billing or personal information.

  • Do not “jail-break” or use a “jail-broken” phone. A “jail-broken” phone is a phone that has gone through a process which opens its operating system to applications which would otherwise not be compatible with the operating system. The application necessary to jail-break an iPhone may put both your phone and PC at risk.

  • When installing an app on any Smartphone, take the time to read the “small print”.  Evaluate the information the app requires access to, and consider if this information is necessary for the app to run successfully. If you cannot see a reason for the app to have access to the information, you should reconsider installing the app.

  • Enroll in a backup/wiping program. iPhones have a built-in “wipe” feature that can be turned on to wipe the phone after 10 failed log-on attempts.

  • Limit your activities while using public Wi-Fi.   Try not to purchase things or access email while using a public Wi-Fi zone. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are targeted by hackers since they can give the hacker direct access to your mobile device.  Using your 3G network provider connection is much more secure than using a public Wi-Fi connection.

Source: www.consumer-action.org

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