Cybercriminals are the most subtle as well as the most constant threat that the average citizen faces daily. Unfortunately, a combination of unawareness and inactivity makes it so easy for cybercriminals to infiltrate our connected devices and steal sensitive personal and financial information from them.
People are seldom even aware when it happens, but only realize what did occur, after the ruinous effects are made evident by the hackers, at their own leisure. Stolen bank details and credit card details, personal addresses and contact information, personal media, secret office files, and identity theft are just a few of the many dangers we are discussing here.
To prevent any of that, it is imperative that we educate ourselves and those around us regarding the basics of protecting smart devices from incoming cyberattacks. As smartphones and tablets are pretty much what most of us use to access the internet, play games, browse websites, conduct mobile banking and shop online, let’s focus on protecting smartphones and tablets in the following sections.
Use a VPN, but ONLY from a Reputed Provider
A VPN is more useful than just unblocking Netflix, although the process remains similar. Using a virtual private network or VPN on mobile phones, tablets, computers, and routers can protect a user by helping with the following security measures.
- Preventing ISP access to user data; even the ISP cannot see your browsing data and personal information anymore
- Preventing hackers from accessing packets of data sent over public/private Wi-Fi connections that includes usernames, passwords, bank pins, emails, private messages, and pretty much everything else
There is a catch though. Unless the VPN service is being provided by a well-reputed company and it includes actual AES 256-bit encryption to scramble and bounce the private info, how do you know the VPN provider won’t be stealing your information? Stay away from the free or extremely cheap, never heard of companies that promise everything, and rely only on globally trusted names. If it’s a trusted name, you won’t need too many international servers to stay protected online.
Beware the Public Charging Ports
It may seem like the last thing that can infect your smartphone, but sadly, this is not the case. Unlike chargers from yesteryears, modern USB chargers are also capable of transferring data to and from smartphones, which is utilized by hackers very effectively to transfer malware to an unsuspecting user’s mobile or tablet.
Known popularly as juice jacking, a lot of public charging points are tampered with to facilitate this criminal act. Protect your smart devices from being juice jacked by implementing the following safety precautions.
- Avoid public charging ports
- If you can’t avoid them, buy and carry your own USB cable, one doesn’t allow data transfer
- Try to use a burner phone with no personal data on it during travel
Use Virtual keyboards
It’s easy to hack the keyboard protocols underneath a compromised smartphone’s kernel, so rely on virtual keyboards while entering passwords, bank pins, OTP, username, etc. If you are thinking that the tablet and smartphone keyboards are virtual as well, then you are right, but they are part of the compromised device, which makes them dangerous to use. The virtual keyboards we are discussing here are onscreen keyboards that only appear on request.
Make 2FA Mandatory
In some nations, 2FA or two-factor authentication is a mandate, but it is optional in the US. To prevent your social media, bank, and other online accounts from being accessed by a hacker via stolen passwords, activate 2FA everywhere. The process usually asks for an OTP, that is a one-time password, in addition to the first password. The secondary authentication, aka the OTP, is sent to the user’s registered email/mobile phone number. This will prevent cybercriminals from accessing your data, even if they have your password from a breach.
Cybercriminals are getting more creative every year and unless you are particularly careful about online safety, it’s only a matter of time before you too become a victim of cybercrime. On the other hand, simple safety measures such as proxy servers, VPNs, and quality anti-malware software resources are also being updated constantly by white hat hackers and developers working on the right side of the law.
As an average consumer, all we need to do is stay aware of the dangers and take the necessary measures in time because that’s pretty much all it takes now to stay safe from cybercriminal activities.
Not that such measures can always guarantee 100% protection, but the chances of you being victimized are significantly reduced all the same. Even if something does manage to get through, you will know about it and have the option to act immediately for minimizing the damage.