Smartphones have become a big part of our lives. Everyone uses their phone throughout the day for different purposes: listening to music, using social media networks, browsing the web, or doing some work on the go. However, while convenient, these devices also come with several disadvantages.
No, we are not talking about people being “too attached” to their phones. In this article we are going to focus on the ways smartphones can leak your data and compromise your online privacy.
Every day you log into your online accounts, check your emails, shop online, visit websites and download apps without even thinking someone could be watching you. Well, they are – since a lot of your phone use involves sharing your personal data, advertisers, hackers and other snoopers are constantly looking for ways to exploit it.
So how can cybercriminals access your data, and what can you do to make your phone hack-proof?
Unprotected Wi-Fi connections
The majority of public Wi-Fi networks provided in restaurants, airports, and cafes lack basic protection. Therefore, it’s easy for a hacker to intercept such networks and view everything you do online. They can watch your actions, access contacts, monitor conversations, and even steal your banking details or other sensitive information.
The problem here is that most people can’t fight the urge to connect to a free public WiFi hotspot when they see one. While many smartphones warn about insecure connections, most users connect anyway, often putting themselves at risk of being hacked.
To stay on the safe side, simply avoid connecting your device to unprotected public Wi-Fi. If you find yourself in a situation when you have to do it, make sure that you don’t share any sensitive information. Also, get yourself a reliable VPN (Virtual Private Network) – it will encrypt your internet traffic and make you anonymous whenever you’ll browse the internet.
Today everyone has a range of apps on their smartphones. Apart from those that come with the device, we also download new apps that have different functionalities and can help us with various aspects of our lives. However, most of these apps gather lots of personal information, which makes them extremely attractive to cybercriminals.
The internet is full of malicious apps that are specifically designed to spy on their users and collect sensitive data. These fake apps often look perfectly legitimate, so it’s easy to fall into a hacker’s trap and download them. However, not all applications are bad in their nature – some just aren’t built with security in mind. Therefore, it’s easy for hackers to breach them and see all the data that they store. Whichever is the case, both can be very harmful to you.
The first thing to do is delete all the apps you no longer use as they are probably still collecting your data. Also, don’t download apps from unofficial sites as by doing so you can easily get malware slipped into your phone. Instead, make the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store your go-to place for getting apps. Remember to review the app permissions and don’t hit the install button if you see anything suspicious. If a step counter or a flashlight require access to your microphone, it may be a signal of malicious intents.
And finally, update your OS and apps regularly, as these updates often contain not only bug fixes but also important security patches for critical vulnerabilities.
Many apps are tied to location services, which means that your phone tracks your every step and knows exactly where you are. While location is necessary for Google maps and similar services to function properly, some apps may use this information to track you and create your data profile without you even knowing.
That’s why you shouldn’t allow apps to track your location unless you need them to. Also,
make sure to turn off location tracking through GPS when you take photos. If this is turned on, whenever you post photos on social media you will be revealing your whereabouts, making it easier for malicious actors to track you.