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Your smartphone is no different from any other general-purpose computer. That is, people with malicious intent can use it to steal your information or make other profits at your expense.
Whether it’s spying, stealing your money, or routine stalking, an unsecured smartphone can be a recipe for misfortune. Here’s how to block hackers from accessing your phone.
Keep Your Phone (And Apps!) Updated
When your phone informs you of an important update – install it! Small security updates are often rolled out to both iOS and Android phones these days. These are usually patches that fix recently discovered exploits. The release of the patch also signals the existence of an exploit to the entire world, so expect many hackers to try their luck, hoping to find unidentified phones in the wild.
While this is not so important, you should also keep your apps up to date. Especially if the description of the update mentions security issues. Poorly written applications can sometimes open the door to your phone, depending on the type of exploit. It is quite rare, but not too implausible, to postpone application updates indefinitely.
Donâ€™t Sideload Apps or Use Dodgy App Stores
The Google Play Store and Apple App Store have quality control measures in place to prevent malicious apps from reaching your phone. This can still happen, but by and large, you don’t need to worry about the apps on these official storefronts.
The real problems arise from manually installing apps (downloading unpublished apps) to your device from sources you cannot trust. Pirated apps are one of the prime examples. These applications often contain malicious code. If you use them, you can simply pass your phone and password to the hacker.
An unpublished download is not bad in itself. There are many reliable applications that you can install this way. However, you must be 100% sure of their origin. Apple devices cannot download unpublished apps or use alternative app stores without jailbreaking the device. You can read more about the risks associated with our article on the alternative Cydia app store.
Use a Strong Screen Lock
All smartphones allow you to install a security lock. So if someone picks up the phone, they can’t just log into your apps or start browsing your information. This kind of lock is an important way to keep your Android phone safe from hackers, but it is even more important to choose the type of lock that provides the required level of security.
The traditional PIN is very secure. We recommend using at least a six-digit code, but even a four-digit code is quite reliable. There are a million possible combinations with six numbers, and ten thousand with four. Given that most phones allow limited guesses before the device locks or wipes, this is more than enough.
It can be tempting to use biometric locks such as fingerprint or face recognition. However, think about this carefully, as face recognition can still be tricked in many cases. Not to mention, someone can unlock your phone by pointing it in your face or making you place your finger on a scanner. Pattern locking can also be a problem, especially if you leave the pattern blurry on the screen!
Use a Biometric Killswitch
If you do decide to use biometric locks on your smart device, learn how to quickly disable them. You can learn how to do this on iOS in our Face ID and Touch ID article. On modern iOS devices, you hold down the power button and one of the volume buttons to turn off biometrics. If you have anything from an iPhone 5s to an iPhone 7, you can turn off biometrics by pressing the power button five times.
Check out Killswitch on your iOS device before actually using it. If you have Hey Siri activated, you can also turn off biometrics simply by saying â€œHey Siri, whose phone is this?â€ All of these methods only work until the next time you lock your device again.
On Android Pie and newer, open your phone settings and look for something called â€œlock screen settingsâ€ or â€œsecure lock screen settingsâ€. The exact wording of the menu may differ depending on the brand of your phone. There should be a “Show blocking options” option.
If you enable this, then pressing the power button on the lock screen will show you the Lock Mode button. If you choose it, your biometrics will stop working immediately and you will need a password to open your phone.
Avoid Public WiFi
Public Wi-Fi networks are an ideal hunting ground for hackers looking to make money easily. Why? Because when you’re on a Wi-Fi network with other users you don’t know, your devices can see each other’s network traffic.
This means that any unencrypted data sent by your phone can be read by other users with a WiFi password. This also means that your phone can be attacked directly through its local network address. If your public Wi-Fi provider has misconfigured its network security, it could leave your device vulnerable.
The best way to block hackers from accessing your phone is to avoid these networks entirely.
Use a VPN
If you need to use a public Wi-Fi network, it is important to use a virtual private network (VPN) application to encrypt all data passing through your network connection. We recommend using only reliable paid services. It will cost a few dollars a month, but it’s worth it.
Use Non-data Cables for Charging
The port your phone uses for charging is also used for data transfer. We know this is probably not news to you, but did you think this data connection could be used to jailbreak your phone?
You can install malware on your smartphone via the USB port. This is why sly hackers are replacing harmless chargers in places like airport lounges or coffee shops with hacked ones. After you plug in your phone for charging, the device will download malware to your phone.
If you absolutely must use a public charging point, purchase a small charging-only cable. These cables don’t have data wires, so even a jailbroken charger can’t do anything to your phone.
Perfect Security Doesnâ€™t Exist
No matter how many countermeasures you take against hackers, there will never be a reliable defense. So make sure you take extra steps like encrypting the most sensitive information, never store things like password lists on your phone, and generally practice good cybersecurity habits.
It’s also worth considering that most hackers don’t actually target the technology itself. Instead, they tend to target the people who use this technology. This is called “social engineering” and hacker attacks such as phishing are typical examples of this.
No security app will protect you if you are deceived in a moment of inattention! So the best advice we can give you to block hackers from accessing your phone is to cultivate a security mindset! This allows you to adapt to new threats as they emerge and increases the likelihood that you will not be the next victim of a hack.
How To Block Hackers From Your Phone (Android and iPhone)
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