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Four Tips to Protect Your Phone From Hackers

Wash your hands. Brush (and floss) your teeth. Don’t reply to emails from Nigerian princes asking you to accept a wire transfer. These are just a few of the lessons we learn as kids, and adults, to develop good hygiene: “conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially through cleanliness.”

When I read about people infecting their Android phones with Gugi––a Trojan malware that steals user credentials when consumers log into mobile banking apps––by clicking on a link in a random text message, it’s clear to me that mobile phone users are in need of some security hygiene lessons. Here are four ways to keep your mobile phone safe from malware and hackers:

1.   The most basic: Don’t click on clickbait links in marketing text messages from senders you don’t know––even if the message promises you something really great, like a free cruise, an 80-quid coupon or a video of a flying monkey. (Although I admit, I did watch this Nat Geo video of flying monkeys, and it was awesome.)

2.   Likewise, don’t click on links in emails you may receive from senders you don’t know, no matter how enticing the subject line. Up to 70% of email is opened on mobile phones.

3.   Don’t download apps from sketchy app stores, or apps for which you’re not sure if the creator is legit. Recently, in a third-party Android app store, more than a dozen malware apps posed as the real PokémonGo or companion apps. Android phones, by the way, comprise 80% of the world’s mobile phones. Here is a list of 16 Android app stores proven to be free of malware.

4.   Don’t let your kids use your mobile phone. Lots of parents hand over their phones to placate bored kids. Don’t cave in. Kids often have an even less-developed sense of caution than adults, and may be downloading malicious apps without your being aware.

What’s behind the lapse

Within just a few years, smartphones have gone from a novelty to completely dominating our lives. People are spending almost 11 hours a day looking at screens, including their phones. Our smartphones have become an extension of our persona; we think, “If you’re contacting me on my smartphone, you’ve got access to the inner sanctum of my very soul. Therefore you must be a friend … right?”

Wrong. Over-exposure and (I’ll come right out and say it) addiction to our mobile phones breaks down a lot of common-sense barriers that otherwise hold fast in other parts of our digital lives. Just as consumers have developed an awareness and security profile in other online activities, such as surfing the web, or sending and receiving emails, they must cultivate similar vigilance in using their smartphones, well, smartly. Likewise, since the mobile phone now functions as a payment card (with a direct link to your bank account through mobile banking apps), consumers now must treat access to their phone with the same caution they exercise with cards: don’t allow random parties to have random access to your payment card information.

Why mobile hygiene matters

Mobile payments are the future of the consumer payment universe. Yet mass adoption has been slow for many reasons. I’ve stated a couple of my theories on Twitter:

Twitter postTwitter post

In order for consumers to experience the ease and security of mobile payments, we’ve got to overcome barriers to adoption. Old habits, such as reaching into your wallet for a payment card because that’s what you’ve always done, are hard enough to break. But unleashing widespread havoc from mobile malware and hackers? That’s something that causes unforgettable harm. No one wants this to happen, and is totally preventable through good mobile security hygiene.

Follow my rants, raves and hygiene tips on Twitter @FraudBird

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