It is no secret that many of us rely on our smartphones for various daily tasks. From connecting to loved ones and friends, checking emails and shopping online, to scheduling work meetings, doing some internet banking, and simply enjoying some light-hearted entertainment, the smartphone plays a monumental role in daily modern life. With an increasing amount of sensitive information being relayed and stored on our devices, however, the need for heightened cybersecurity has become more important than ever before.

If you’re looking to protect sensitive and personal data on your device, you’ve landed on the right page. Today, we look at the 6 steps you should take in order to develop a dynamic cybersecurity strategy for your personal user and device needs. 

Use A VPN For A Strong, Secure Foundation

Using a virtual private network service (or VPN for short) is a highly effective means of staying secure when accessing the internet on your personal devices. But what is a VPN? VPNs have been used to securely access the web on PCs and laptops since this cybersecurity tool was first developed in 1996. Cut to 2022, and more and more web users are choosing to utilise VPN services on their smartphones as well. Afterall, many of us do a growing portion of our web browsing and moderate to high-risk activities like online shopping and gaming on our phones, making it that much more important that our smartphones are just as protected from cyber threats as our PCs and laptops. 

But what do VPNs actually do? VPNs effectively work by masking your internet protocol (IP) address so that your network connection stays virtually untraceable. VPNs are able to achieve this by providing device users with an encrypted network connection by ferrying your device’s connection through a dedicated VPN server. 

Encrypting your network connection also allows VPNs to keep all your user and device data in an encrypted format as well. In doing so, VPNs ensure that your data is unreadable to hackers, cyber criminals, or anyone else who may want to harvest your personal information online. 

Stay Away From Public WiFi Connections

We’ve all been there – you’re running low on cellular data, and the last thing you want to do is go over your monthly limit. As a result, you head to a local fast food joint, coffee shop, or cafe to utilise the free public WiFi services on offer. Sounds like the perfect set-up, right? Well, not entirely. Whilst public WiFi is indeed a very handy asset to have at your disposal, using public WiFi networks comes with its fair share of risks.

Unfortunately, public WiFi connections are rarely ever secure, leaving users at risk of falling victim to data theft, identity theft, credit card fraud, malware attacks, and malicious hotspots, amongst many other disasters. The better alternative, in this case, would be to only ever connect via hotspot to a trusted device.

If connecting to an unsecured WiFi connection is an absolute must, however, we highly recommend that you avoid logging into key accounts or financial services for total peace of mind that these accounts won’t be compromised, alongside using a VPN to limit your visibility wherever you can.

Passwords Are The Key 

If you haven’t already set up a passcode for your phone, take this as a sign to get that done ASAP! Thankfully, with advances in modern technology, passwords are no longer limited to just a string of alphanumeric characters; today, you can us, facial recognition, fingerprints and even iris recognition technologies to keep your phone secure. 

Alongside locking your device, it is imperative that you set up strong and varied passwords for various applications on your phone. If like many, you are guilty of using the same password for every single login, the time has come to truly up your password game. Using the same password over and over again leaves you susceptible to credential stuffing, where hackers use stolen login credentials from one application to fraudulently gain access to your other user accounts. 

Be Wary Of Suspicious Texts, Websites and Emails

Did you know that in 2021 alone, over $2 billion dollars was lost to scams in Australia? A large chunk of these scams targets people via text messages, suspicious websites or links, emails, and mobile phone applications. You may even be surprised to hear that Gen Z web users are actually more at risk of falling victim to scams than older citizens! 

The reason why virtually nobody is entirely safe from falling victim to scams online, is simply because scams have evolved to become incredibly convincing and sophisticated in recent years. This is why staying vigilant and practicing critical thinking when engaging with content from unknown sources is absolutely key. It’s always best to err on the side of caution if you receive any suspicious emails or texts containing links to websites.

For example, if you have received a strange text message that claims to be from your bank, it is always recommended that you do a quick Google search or head to your bank’s website to check through their latest scam, fraud and security alerts. Clicking on a malicious link embedded in a phishing text message or email can lead to severe consequences, the least of which include data theft, compromised accounts, and possibly even financial loss. 

It is also helpful to note that most institutions (banks, post offices, utility companies etc) will never ask for your personal information by email or text message, which is another key telltale sign of a scam. 

Keep Your Operating Software Up To Date

Once upon a time, we knew someone who hadn’t updated their mobile phone’s operating software for over 5 years. If this doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, think again! This is because mobile operating software updates are intended to improve your user experience and often contain updated security patches that can cover potential vulnerabilities that may have been discovered in older software versions. Hackers absolutely love security flaws, and outdated software is especially vulnerable to evolving cyberattacks.

Even though it may take a little time and effort, it is always advised to install OS and application updates as soon as they are made available.

Always Encrypt Your Mobile Phone Data 

Last but not least, we recommend encrypting your mobile phone data to really ensure that you’ve got your guard up. As we have mentioned, a plethora of information is transmitted to and from your phone on a daily basis, leaving your sensitive personal and device data at risk. Thankfully, almost every modern smartphone will have encryption settings that you can enable in the security section of your settings app. 

Apple IOS Users: To ensure that your data is encrypted, head to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode. You will then be prompted to enter your lock screen code. Once you have done this, scroll to the bottom of the page where it should say “Data Protection is enabled.”

Android Users: To encrypt an Android device, first charge your phone to a minimum of 80% battery life and unroot your phone before continuing. Head to Security > Encrypt Phone. Do note that encryption can take up to 1 hour and if your device is not charged or the connection is interrupted, you may be at risk of losing all your data. 

Remember that your mobile device is actually a pocket-sized computer that contains a variety of sensitive, highly personal data that can easily be intercepted by hackers or other malicious third parties. We hope that this article has equipped you with the knowledge you’ll need to develop a dynamic cyber security strategy that is guaranteed to keep you well-protected when accessing the web on the go.

Do you have a  suggestion of your own on how users can keep their mobile phones secure? Have a burning question that you need an answer to? Be sure to leave us a comment to share your thoughts.