Pagoda Blog

Do This To Keep Your Smartphone From Getting Hacked

September 21, 2023

We store so much of our lives on our smartphones. Think back to the last action you took on your phone … Was it to Slack an important file to a colleague? Send a personal text message to a friend? Order a product online? 


We conduct personal, financial, and business transactions on our smartphones but too often overlook just how vulnerable these palm-size devices are without the proper security precautions in place. Before you check your email or enter your credit card online through your phone, review the following cybersecurity tips to help keep your data safe. 



1. Embrace passwordless authentication 


Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Investigations Breach Report found that the primary way external actors gain access to an organization’s data is through stolen credentials. Passwords alone are simply not enough to keep your data safe. And the more password-protected accounts you have, the more likely it is that you will start reusing passwords and/or creating weak passwords in an effort to make it easier to access these accounts. Unfortunately, this also makes it easier for bad actors to access the accounts which is why we recommend using passwordless authentication. 


Passwordless authentication uses methods such as facial and fingerprint recognition, a device identifier, or adaptive MFA to protect your accounts. Especially for a small, mobile device like a smartphone that can so easily fall into the wrong hands, enacting passwordless authentication can prevent an unauthorized user from unlocking your phone.   


2. Always encrypt your internet connection 

Smartphones are such a handy way to quickly check your email while on-the-go, conduct an online search, or place an order online. Public Wi-Fi, however, is vulnerable to interception by anyone else using that connection. Your phone’s cellular network is more secure than public Wi-Fi because the connection between your device and your provider is encrypted. However, for optimal security, we recommend using a VPN when accessing the internet on your smartphone. A VPN creates an encrypted connection that you can use at your home office or while working remote or just checking email on your phone. To reduce data consumption, it’s helpful to select the right VPN protocol and to turn off the VPN when not in use.   


3. Don’t download apps outside the official app stores

Malicious apps can download a virus or spyware onto your device and gain access to sensitive information like passwords, your credit card number, and any other data you might store on your phone. The official app stores like Google Play and Apple App Store have safeguards in place to verify apps before approving them for sale in their store. These safeguards aren’t entirely foolproof though so it’s always a good idea to closely read the description of the app and look at reviews before downloading to ensure it’s not a spoof. 


4. Delete old apps 

How many apps do you have on your smartphone’s home screen? How many of these apps do you currently use or even recognize? With so many free apps available, it’s easy to download an app for every company we do business with. Keeping old apps on your phone, however, can put your data at risk. These old apps often have outdated software that make them especially vulnerable to hackers and malware so it’s important to periodically go through your phone and delete any apps that are no longer serving you. 


5. Keep your software up to date 

As mentioned above, outdated software can put your data at risk. When you don’t regularly update your software your device will not have the latest security patches in place to mitigate the risk of a breach. Security patches are designed to strengthen any vulnerabilities found in the system, ensuring you have optimal security for your device.  


6. Install antivirus software

Antivirus software can help protect your phone from malicious apps that may try to download a virus onto your device. They can also erase your data if your phone gets stolen or an unauthorized party gains access to your device. Some antivirus applications automatically delete your browsing history and cookies as well.  


7. Regularly backup your phone

Always backup your data, across devices. You never know when you might lose access to that device due to a data breach, a natural disaster, or because you simply lost your phone. Regular backups help ensure that you can quickly regain access to the data stored on that device and easily transfer it to a new device, if need be. 


8. Enable tracking 

Find My iPhone (Apple) or Find My Device (Android) allows you to track your phone should it fall into the wrong hands. We advise against allowing location tracking through third-party apps (unless absolutely necessary for the app’s functionality) but the Find My iPhone or Find My Device tracking feature can make it possible to retrieve a stolen device. 

Your smartphone was hacked or stolen … Now what?


 1. Double check that you have a backup of your data 

Verify that you have a recent backup (from the last day or two) of your data stored securely in the cloud. If you lock or wipe your phone remotely (see step two below) you want to make sure that you have access to all data stored on your device.


2. Lock or wipe your phone remotely

If you lose your phone, the first step is to lock it remotely. If the bad actor hasn’t yet gained access to your device, then this can help prevent them from doing so. The next step is to completely wipe all data from your device. If you’ve been conducting regular backups to the cloud, this step will ensure your data stays secure and in your hands. Find Apple’s guide for remotely wiping your device here and Google’s guide for Android here


3. Set up a new phone with all the above security measures in place

You may have to transfer your data to a new smartphone. If that’s the case, now’s the time to put all the above security measures in place. We store so much data on our phones, both personal and professional, so it’s imperative to have the same level of cybersecurity in place as we do with our laptop or desktop. 


Feature photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions on Unsplash


Related reading: 

5 Ways a Data Breach Can Cause Long-Term Damage to Your Business

The Threat of Third-Party Apps and How to Manage Them

How to Create a BYOD Policy for a Hybrid Workplace 


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