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Six steps to keep your smartphone safe

clean smartphone

Most of us agree that having an antivirus suite installed on our PCs is mandatory. And yet, very few people install a mobile antivirus on their phones. Here's how you can make sure that cyber criminals won't be able to infect your device.

1. Begin by setting up a strong password for your smartphone. Very few people realize that all their data will be compromised if the phone is lost or gets stolen. Resist the temptation to use a pattern lock; it's really easy to break this "password", and even a 4-digit pin code can be easily brute-forced. So, use a password that's got 10 to 15 characters, utilizing a mixture of lower- and upper-case letters, numbers and symbols. Here's a good online password generator.

2. Encrypt phone data. Fortunately, modern phones offer tools that make the entire process a breeze. Go to your phone's "Settings", and then search for "Security"; you will be given the option to encrypt the contents of your phone's memory, the SD storage card, or both - my recommendation. This way, if a villain wants to connect your phone to a computer using a USB cable or steals your SD card, he won't be able to view the files without inputting the password that was set up during the encryption process.

3. Stay away from free hotspots. Lots of hackers set up "evil twins", wireless networks that are controlled by them and mimic legit Wi-Fi. Let's imagine that you are sipping a nice coffee at Starbucks, and you want to connect to the Internet using their hotspot. So, you pull out the phone, you see a "StarbucksClients" network, and then you connect to it. However, that was the hacker's hotspot, and now all your data is passing through his network. Everything that you say, download or use can be intercepted by the hacker, and then used against you. To give you an idea, your banking account may be compromised even if you haven't opened the online banking app.

4. Keep Bluetooth off whenever it is possible to do so. I know that you may have a nice smartwatch and it's really comfortable to see all those notifications on its screen, but Bluetooth connections can be very vulnerable. And by turning Bluetooth off, you will improve your phone's battery life as well. If you really need to keep Bluetooth on, at least make sure it isn't discoverable. And if you see a pairing request that you did not initiate, be sure to decline it right away.

5. Limit the number of installed apps. Believe it or not, there are lots of applications that have a single purpose: to provide huge lists of free apps. And if a formerly paid app becomes free, what's not to like about it? Well, the truth is that many of these "free" apps include nasty surprises; some of them request outrageous permissions, like the ability of making phone calls on your behalf, for example.

The conclusion is simple: uninstall the apps that you aren't using and be sure to utilize applications that come from legit developers. Don't ever download apps from unofficial app stores, even if they look really promising; most of them are infected with nasty viruses.

6. Use a mobile antivirus. I know it adds another expense to the list, but if you value your privacy and data, it is mandatory to use a security suite. Just search the web for "best mobile antivirus", read a few dozens of reviews, and then pick the application that fits your needs.