Securely Using Mobile Apps
Mobile devices, such as tablets, smartphones, and watches, have become one of the primary technologies we use in both our personal and professional lives. However, with the power of all these mobile apps comes risks. Here are some steps you can take to securely use and make the most of your mobile apps.
The first step is making sure you always download mobile apps from a safe, trusted source. Cyber criminals have mastered their skills at creating and distributing infected mobile apps that appear to be legitimate. If you install one of these infected apps, criminals can take complete control of your mobile device. By downloading apps from only well-known, trusted sources, you reduce the chance of installing an infected app. What you may not realize is the brand of mobile device you use determines your options for downloading apps.
For Apple devices, such as an iPad or iPhone, only download mobile apps from the Apple App Store. The advantage to this is Apple does a security check of all mobile apps before they are made available. In addition, if Apple does find an app in its store that it believes is infected, it will quickly remove the mobile app. Windows Phone uses a similar approach to managing applications.
Android mobile devices are different. Android gives you more flexibility by being able to download a mobile app from anywhere on the internet. However, with this flexibility comes more responsibility. Google does maintain a managed mobile app store similar to Apple’s, called Google Play. The mobile apps you download from Google Play have passed some basic security checks. Avoid downloading Android mobile apps from otherwebsites, as anyone, including cyber criminals, can easily create and distribute malicious mobile apps and trick you into infecting your mobile device. As an additional protection, install antivirus on your mobile device when possible. The key to securely using mobile apps is to install apps only from trusted sources, to install updates when available, and to grant only the required app permissions.
Regardless of which device you are using, an additional step you can take is to avoid apps that are brand new, that few people have downloaded, or that have very few positive comments. The longer an app has been available, the more people that have used it, and the more positive comments it has, the more likely that app can be trusted. In addition, install only the apps you need and use. If you stop using an app, remove it from your mobile device. (You can always add it back later if you find you need it.)
Finally, never jailbreak or root your mobile device. This is the process of hacking into it and installing unapproved apps or changing existing, built-in functionality. This not only bypasses or eliminates many of the security controls built into your mobile device, but often also voids warranties and support contracts.
Once you have installed a mobile app from a trusted source, make sure it is safely configured and protecting your privacy. Always think before allowing a mobile app access: do you want to grant the app the permission it asks for, and does the app really need it?
Mobile apps, just like your computer and mobile device operating system, must be updated to stay current. Criminals are constantly searching for and finding weaknesses in apps. The more often you check for and install updates, the better. Most devices allow you to configure your system to update mobile apps automatically. We recommend this setting. If this is not possible, then we recommend you check at least every two weeks for updates. Finally, when your apps are updated, always make sure you verify any new permissions they might require.
A Public Service Announcement Courtesy of Cedar Valley Bank & Trust
BACK IT UP: Protect Yourself
Protect yourself against data loss by making electronic copies of important files, commonly referred to as a backup. Our computers contain vast amounts of data, from family photos and music collections to financial records and personal contacts. In fact, a recent National Cyber Security Alliance/Symantec study found that more than 68% of Americans store 25% or more of their photos digitally. For most people, the loss of that information could be devastating. Data can be lost in several ways: computer malfunctions, theft, viruses, spyware, accidental deletion, and natural disasters.
Data backup is a simple, three step process:
• Make copies of your data
• Select the hardware or method to store your data
• Safely store the backup device that holds your copied files
Make Copies of Your Data
Many computers come with a backup software program installed, so check to see if you have one. Most backup software programs will allow you to make copies of every file and program on your computer, or just the files you’ve changed since your last backup.
Select Hardware to Store Your Data
When you conduct a backup, the files will have to be stored on a physical device – such as CDs, DVDs, or USB flash drives, an external hard drive, or on the web using cloud-based online storage.
• CDs, DVDs and flash drives: These are best for storing a small amount of pictures, music, and videos.
• External hard drive: If your computer serves as the family photo album and music library, it’s best to get an external hard drive that plugs into your computer (preferably via a USB port). This way, you can assure more adequate storage space for all your files. Copying information will also be faster with these devices.
• Online backup services: If you don’t want to hassle with new hardware, there are many online backup services available, usually for a monthly fee. Some security software includes this service with your subscription, so be sure to check that you don’t already have this service available. You simply backup your files to a secure server over the Internet. These services have the added advantage of safely storing your files in a remote location and the files can be accessed anywhere you have a connection to the Internet. This can be valuable for people who travel a lot and may need to recover files or if you live in area prone to natural disasters that might require an evacuation.
Safely Store the Backup Device that Holds Your Data
After setting up the software and copying your files on a regular basis, make sure you keep your backup device somewhere safe. Some ideas include a trusted neighbor’s house, your workplace, a safe, or a secure place at home that would likely survive a natural disaster. Keep your backup device close enough so that you can retrieve it easily when you do your regular backup.
Other software programs are available for purchase if your system does not have a backup program or if you’re seeking other features. Ideally, you should backup your files at least once a week.
A Public Service Announcement Courtesy of Cedar Valley Bank & Trust