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Securing your Smartphone (and Smart Home) from Hackers

Written by | Updated September 4, 2014

Home security systems have never been as technologically advanced as they are today. Families can protect their homes with an array of wireless alarm systems and security cameras. And home security has evolved to do even more, allowing homeowners to do everything from remotely locking and unlocking doors to turning off home appliances. These advances in home security come with the convenience of controlling your system remotely, whether it’s on a tablet or your smartphone. However, with that convenience also comes risk.

A new kind of hacker

Today, people use their smartphones for everything from storing passwords to managing finances, even to controlling their home security systems. With hackers now focusing on accessing your mobile device information, there are new precautions everyone should take before handling delicate information on their mobile device.

6 steps to protect your smart devices

Most of these are common sense, but many people fail to take these measures and leave themselves vulnerable to becoming victims of damaging malware or theft of sensitive information. Here are a few simple things you can do to protect yourself and your home.

1. Use password protection.

Not all hackers come from cyberspace. [tweetherder] If your smartphone is stolen or lost, it could end up in a hacker’s hands, giving them all your personal data. [/tweetherder]A password can deter the hacker long enough for you to locate or wipe your phone remotely.

2. Install a tracker app.

There are applications that allow you to track, lock or wipe your phone from a computer if it is ever lost or stolen. Lockout is a great app, available for both iPhone and Android devices. It can back-up your information remotely and wipe your phone in case it gets taken.

3. Secure your Wi-Fi connection.

One of the easiest ways for hackers to enter your smartphone is through an unsecure Wi-Fi hotspot.  [tweetherder] Coffee shops and other places with unsecure wireless access are breeding grounds for hackers to sneak in and steal your information [/tweetherder] or place malware on your device. Avoid accessing unsecure Wi-Fi hotspots as much as possible by disabling automatic Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections on your smartphone. When those features aren’t in use, turn them off. Otherwise, look for a secure Wi-Fi network and make your Bluetooth “not discoverable” to other devices.

4. Don’t open suspicious messages.

Although the best way to monitor your phone for hackers is by installing antivirus and anti-malware protection software, there are signs that can tip you off to your phone being taken over by hackers. Texts or email with links from unknown contacts should never be opened or replied to. These are often the first step to a hacker entering your software. Also, be aware of odd charges on your cell phone bill. Confirm any unknown charges with your provider and alert your provider or bank to any unexplained or “Trojan” banking on your device.

5. Avoid downloads from third parties.

One of the big innovations in smartphone hacking is the use of applications to imbed malware on your device. Android, Apple and other smartphone companies adamantly advise against using third party stores to download apps. [tweetherder]What seems like a free download of Angry Birds could end up costing thousands in unseen purchases from a buggy application.[/tweetherder] When looking for apps, it’s always best to go right to the source with Google Play and the Apple app store.

6. Keep your original software.

If you move away from your smartphone’s original software you put yourself at great risk for hacking.[/tweetherder] “Rooting” or “jailbreaking” your smartphone leaves it vulnerable to all sorts of hackers and malware and renders antivirus software useless. If you have a jailbroken or rooted phone, don’t use that device to operate your home security system or store important personal information. Once a rooted phone is hacked, there’s almost no going back.

Protecting your smartphone not only keeps your device working smoothly, it also helps protect you and your home. From simply having the latest iOS updates running on your phone to monitoring unusual data access, there are a lot of ways to make sure hackers stay out of your device. In an age where people use their smartphones more than any other device, it’s worth protecting yours.

Written by Rebecca Edwards

Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more

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