News & Reviews

Securing your Smartphones

By : Ali Ergal   /  

Nowadays, it is easy for your smartphone to get hacked by people who are trying to take advantage of the vulnerabilities in the operating systems to access your personal data. There is an ever-growing increased reliance on smartphones for managing your business through your smartphone, saving files, documents, photos, correspondence and receiving messages. This incites hackers to try more than once to break into your smartphone. However, this also incites developers to implement more powerful protection programs on smartphones when connected to the Internet to protect private data from spyware and intrusion.

Is Apple more secure than Android?

iPhone users always claim that their devices are more secure than Android, but this is not because iPhones are more expensive. In fact, Google stated that its operating system, Android, is just as secure as iOS. However, that doesn’t stop it from being an open-source platform for developers. This basically means that anyone is able to take the source code and create a custom operating system. So other companies who use Android on their devices such as Samsung, Sony, Huawei, and others, take Android’s source code and adjust it.

With an Android / iOS, with each software update, more security features get added. In general, any device that has an Internet connection is basically considered exposed to any kind of exploitation. So, the best way you could protect your device is just being aware of any unusual activities.

So how would you know if your device has been hacked? Here are some common issues you may notice on your device;

  1. The battery will noticeably start draining faster than usual.
  2. You will see random unknown apps downloaded.
  3. Your smartphone will suddenly run slower and will start glitching.
  4. You will see many pop-up ads when you're trying to use your phone.
  5. You will notice some of your personal files been deleted. i.e. Picture, Videos...
  6. The official store will stop working and may get replaced.
  7. You may hear unusual background noise.
  8. You may notice an electronic interference between your smartphone and other electronic devices, even when you’re not on a phone call.
  9. Your phone bill will show a spike in data, text, or phone usage.

Note: These issues may vary depending on the operating system on your smartphone.

So, what can you do to keep your smartphone safe? A lot, in fact, there are some quick and easy steps you can take to protect your personal information, whether you have an Android or an iPhone. Read below some expert tips to secure your smartphone.

7 ways to secure your phone

1. Lock your smartphone: (password management)

First basic step, is to set a password on your device's lock screen, as not having your smartphone locked is equivalent to leaving your front door open. However, as many people set passcode/password/patterns on their device, they're usually easy to guess or to break. So always remember, the longer the password is, the harder it is to break. This can also apply when setting a password to any personal account, especially your iCloud and Google accounts as most of your data is regularly backed up to your accounts unless set otherwise.

Be aware of smart unlock where it can set up your device whenever you connect to a certain Bluetooth device, or when it’s near a specific location.

2. Applications and Websites

Always be careful of what you are downloading from the Internet. In terms of Applications, always use the official stores in the device such as App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android). This is because the official store scans apps before it downloads on your device. Apple scans the apps before they get uploaded on the App Store. On the other hand, Google made its own malware detector called "Google Play Protect". This is built into every Android device. It scans for any malware when downloading/updating an app, and it even works in Chrome browser where it alerts the user when the website is acting out of line. Which brings us to the point to avoid downloading apps from websites and third-party stores, especially if you're an Android user.

3. Access Permissions

Another point to keep in mind, always be aware of what permissions the apps are requesting when you download an app, even from the official store. Normally, permissions are listed in the descriptions or when you click "Install", it will alert you that the app is requesting access. For example, you are downloading a card game on your device and it requests to access your microphone, location, contacts and media files. Generally, it wouldn't make sense for this game to have access to all of this.

You can control application permissions in Settings:

Android: Settings >> Applications >> "Select App" >> Permissions.

iOS: Settings >> Privacy >> "Select App".

With this, you can manage each app's permission and what access it has.

4. Stay up-to-date

Hackers are constantly working on creating new viruses that may breakthrough vulnerable operating systems and applications. However, developers are also constantly working on improving the security of the smartphone and protecting it. So always keep your OS and apps up to date.

I would advise you to not tweak your operating system known as "jailbreaking" for iOS or "rooting" for Android device. As tweaking your device gives full access to the system files making your smartphone more attack prone.

5. Public Wi-Fi

Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network allows hackers to intercept your data and hack your phone. So, if you really have to connect to a public Wi-Fi, try to avoid accessing any of your confidential data. Such as accessing your online banking or entering your bank details if shopping online. However, there are some highly skilled hackers who could access absolutely all your data by just connecting to the public Wi-Fi as most of the smartphone applications have Wi-Fi access.

6. Text Messages

If you’re an Android user, your messaging app most likely does not require Internet access. If you’re an iPhone user, the iMessage app does require internet access, but it can be switched off as preferable. However, in both cases, hackers can send you a malicious text that can compromise your device. Therefore, don’t open messages that come from unknown sources, because they can gain full control of your device from just one message. This attack requires the hacker to have only your phone number, however, it doesn’t hurt to take the necessary measures to protect your phone and reduce risks of access.

7. Always be prepared

You should always keep track of the details that may get you back your smartphone if it ever got lost or stolen. Firstly, you should always keep a record of your IMEI number. With this number, the police can track your device or completely shut it off. Secondly, if you’re an iPhone user, make sure your iCloud account is set up properly with a password you can remember. Switch on “Find my iPhone” feature, and adjust all security settings that it may ask for. If you’re an Android user, the same thing applies for your Google account. Always stay on top of it and make sure you remember the password at all times. This will help track your smartphone, lock it, and remotely erase all the data on your device.

People also Ask?

Can your device be tracked if the location service is off or not connected to the Internet?

It’s hard to think that your smartphone might be compromised when it’s offline and not connected to the internet. However, it is possible.

There are various ways for it to happen, one of them which gives away most of your personal information, is tracking the Keystrokes. This can be done tracking Electromagnetic Radiations left from when your phone was charging, using the device’s Accelerometer that gives nearly 80% accuracy of keystroke detection, or by pointing a laser at your smartphone’s keyboard to track the vibrations. These methods require the hacker to be relatively close to your device, but this doesn’t really make it any harder for them.

Bluetooth is also considered as just another wireless communication protocol like Wi-Fi. So, it’s just another gate for the hacker to gain access to your smartphone.

The accelerometer and magnetometer, including some other sensors, are able to identify the user's locations without even having the location service (GPS) switched on. These sensors don’t usually require permission to access. According to a study by Princeton University, with a couple of thousands of code lines added to any app or game, it can start perceiving data about your location, time zone, network status, and much more. The sensors can even identify much more detailed data about your travel. For example, the accelerometer relays on the speed, therefore, it can identify whether you were walking, in car, bus or train. The magnetometer works as a campus, tells where you are according to true north. Another sensor, Barometer can tell your location with more accuracy by measuring the air pressure. With all these data gathered and determined, it can easily locate you and that’s all with the GPS is off.

But how can we deal with such a breach?

As an individual, you can always be aware of what apps you are downloading and what access permission its requires. Although, the sensors don’t require permissions as we mentioned the app would require granting permission to access to these sensors.

2. Can someone hack your phone by calling you?

No is the simple answer. There isn’t a way to access all your data from just a phone call. In fact, the only thing that can happen is to listen/record the phone call. Unless you download an application and give full permission to this app to access your data, there’s no logical way for your smartphone to be hacked from a phone call.

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