securing mobile deviceWith smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, your life is there at the touch of a button. But the features that make your phone ‘smart’ also make it susceptible to viruses and malicious software. These attributes also make your mobile device a valuable commodity if it is lost or stolen. Your personal information can be accessed via your phone, as well as potentially your passwords, banking details, emails and photos. If fraudsters got their hands on your device, either virtually or physically, what could they get from it? Is the information on your device enough for fraudsters to access your money, or steal your identity or credit rating? For this post in aid of Stay Smart Online Week 2014, and it’s theme ‘On The Go’, we look at the best ways to secure your mobile device. 

By Graham Doessel, Non-Legal Director of MyCRA Lawyers Stay Smart Online Week 2014.

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The rise in the use of mobile digital devices points to a need for users to be more cautious about the security of those devices, and aware of the potential for identity theft should they fall into the wrong hands.

Mobile phones, especially smart phones are mobile computers. They allow you to access the internet and email, download applications and games and store personal contacts, photos and information. You need to protect and secure your phone just as you would your home or mobile computer.

If you are unlucky to have your mobile device stolen it can be the same as someone breaking into your home or stealing your PC. If the device is not secure, often there is enough information on there for a criminal to go about hacking into your bank accounts, or stealing your identity and taking credit out in your name.

Likewise if you are ‘hacked’ or download malicious software, passwords and personal information can be taken. The recent iCloud attacks are an example of how you can potentially be at risk. It demonstrates the importance of changing passwords on all accounts regularly. (See the story in The Australian ‘Hacked iCloud account victims face ongoing identity fraud risk‘).

Identity theft can hit twice, and if you’re hit, you can face an uphill battle with your credit rating if it’s gone that far. Many times you are unaware your good name has been used until you apply for credit somewhere and are flatly refused. You can have credit applications as a minimum and possibly defaults, mortgages and mobile phones attributed to you incorrectly.

You may have repayment history against your name on your credit rating at a minimum, or once an account remains unpaid past 60 days, the debt may be listed by the creditor as a default. Defaults remain listed on the victim’s credit file for a 5 year period unless they can prove they are an identity theft victim.

It is not widely known how difficult recovery from identity theft can be. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that defaults can be removed from your credit file. The onus is on you to prove your case of identity theft to creditors.

So to prevent this terrible crime from happening to you, take heed of Stay Smart Online’s Top Tips for securing your mobile device:

Top tips

Put a password on your phone and a PIN on your SIM card. Do not rely on the default factory settings. Using a password and PIN will stop thieves getting access to your phone or using the SIM in another phone to make calls. All phones have security settings so familiarise yourself with them and turn them on.

Setup your device to automatically lock. If your phone has not been used for a few minutes, it should automatically lock and require a password or PIN to reactivate.

Encrypt your data. Some phones allow you to encrypt your data, sometimes using third-party software. Encryption secures your data if your phone is lost or stolen.

Consider installing security software from a reputable provider. Anti-virus, anti-theft, anti-malware and firewall software is available for some mobile phone operating systems.

Stay with reputable websites and mobile applications (apps). Always keep an eye on your commonly used websites’ addresses and make sure you are not redirected or diverted to other websites. When using any financial mobile applications, such as mobile banking, make sure to only use applications supplied by your financial institution.

Be careful when allowing third party unsigned applications to access your personal information. This includes access to your location. Always read permission requests before installing new apps or app upgrades, looking for unusual requests or pleas for money.

Do not click on unsolicited or unexpected links. Even when they appear to be from friends.

Check your phone bill for unusual data charges or premium rate calls. Contact your service provider immediately if you discover any unusual calls or data usage on your bill.

Check for updates to your phone’s operating system regularly. Install them as soon as they are available.

Be smart with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. When connecting to the internet using Wi-Fi, try to use an encrypted network that requires a password. Avoid online banking or financial transactions in busy public areas and over unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Ensure that passers-by can’t watch what you are typing (known as shoulder-surfing). Turn Bluetooth off when you aren’t using it.

Back up your data regularly. Set up your phone so that it backs up your data when you sync it, or back it up to a separate memory card.

If you decide to recycle your phone, make sure you delete all your personal information first. Most phones have an option to reset to factory settings. Remember to remove or wipe any inserted memory cards.

To assist you in case of your mobile theft or loss, ask your provider or manufacturer whether it has services such as mobile tracking and the ability to remotely wipe your information stored on the phone.

So our message this week is: take heed online, and safeguard your personal information to prevent identity theft and credit file misuse.

For more information on credit file misuse, or to get more help or information about the security of your credit file, visit our main site, or you can contact us on 1300 667 218.

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