Securing your data on mobile phones
As online and digital transactions rise, cyber criminals have also become active, targeting mostly online payment platforms. Studies show that 35-40 per cent of financial transactions are done via mobile devices in India and it is expected to grow to 60-65 per cent by 2017.
The Indian economy is going cashless and digital. The move towards a cashless digital economy has made more people move to either digital banking or electronic transactions. Mobile wallets have become very popular along with other UPI based apps and BHIM. As online and digital transactions rise, cyber criminals have also become active, targeting mostly online payment platforms. Studies show that 35-40 per cent of financial transactions are done via mobile devices in India and it is expected to grow to 60-65 per cent by 2017. A lot of our personal and professional data are now stored in our smartphone. Take a look at your contacts, emails, instant messaging apps, banking apps, texts, photos and all the accounts that you are still logged into on the internet -- all these have to be properly secured. With the increase in digital and online operations, how safe and secure is your device?
Encryption: One of the oldest and easiest solution to protect your smartphone device is encryption, a built-in-hardware that secures your data specially when you are sending and receiving data over the internet. "Encryption is the need of the hour; if data is not encrypted whatever is being sent and received will be in clear text and readable to all. That is why encryption is so important," says Aaditya Uthappa, Director Enterprise, Paladion Networks - Cyber Security Management Company. Encryption is a two key process to lock and unlock your phone, which turns your data into unreadable format and it will be available only with proper validity. This system is beyond the regular lock screen passwords as data is still accessible from behind the screen with different tools. "Data today travels with the speed of light, and if we want to truly ensure highly secured data sharing, we need to start securing information at the very source of it" says, Amit Sharma- Vice President, Seclore - Cyber Security Management Organization. If a device is encrypted, all photo apps, music, account data will only be available with an unique key. So if the phone falls into the wrong hands, nobody will be able to make sense of the data without the right password. "Today's modern encryption is so strong that even super computers would take years to break" adds Uthappa.
For Android: Owners of android devices, under settings option, go to the 'Security' menu. In general this is the route -- Settings > Personal > Security -- and there will be the option 'Encrypt phone'. The phone needs to be plugged in while the process takes place, as the phone should not shut down and cause error in the process. Then set a password to access the newly encrypted files.For iOS: Owners of iPhone, under the Settings option, tap on General and then Passcode Lock. You need to choose between a four-digit numeric PIN or something more complex. To set a harder password, slide the 'Simple Passcode' setting to 'off.'
Individual app locking: A phone should also be locked properly with strong passwords, patterns or pins to avoid unauthorised access. Setting individual locking apps is a way to keep your data a lot more secure. If someone gets past your locked screen; they can't open your emails or banking or payment apps. In Android this system is built-in but iOS users can't directly lock individual apps. But such apps are available in the Apple store that provides these features to protect documents, folders, and reduce the amount of information a thief can access. Common passwords should not be used and passwords should be changed on a regular basis.
Keeping phone up-to-date: To protect your phone from hackers, it is always better to install updates of software as soon as they are made available. Updating takes time and brings new changes but these are made to stop hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities of the software and not compromising your personal data.
Careful of what is getting downloaded: You should not respond to request from apps that do not look trustworthy and should be careful of what to download in the phone. Google's Play Store and Apple's store are different in this case. The Apple store reviews the apps that are made being available on their store but the same is not done in case of Android Play Store. So, the apps available in Android Play Store can have any and all type of fake and virus infected apps, which on downloading gets full access to your phone. Before downloading an app make sure it's the original version. Open Wi-Fi may not always be a good idea: There are risks involved while using an open wireless network. In a matter of time anyone in the area can snoop in and get all information out through these connections. "Stay away from open Wi-Fi networks as much as possible, if it's not encrypted do not touch it" says Uthappa. It is better to stick to your phone's data connection when in doubt. Or get hold of VPN apps like Turbo, TunnelBear, CM securities, available for Android and iOS, which makes your traffic route through a private encrypted channel, which protects your device from anyone who is snooping. Actively monitoring account: People should monitor their accounts actively and check for unusual activity. The safety of mobile wallets also depends a lot on the user of the phone too. Extra caution should be taken and you should never link payment wallets to debit/credit cards or their bank accounts. Mobile banking apps and wallets allows their customers to view transaction history and get an alert every time there is activity on their account. Keep a track of all the messages and notifications that you receive from your bank or wallet providers, to make sure that you are aware of all transactions.