Remember security for new smartphones, AG Cooper urges

smartphones-01RALEIGH, NC (September 9, 2016)…As technology enthusiasts line up to get the latest smartphones, Attorney General Cooper reminds consumers to take precautions to keep personal information stored on mobile phones secure.

“Smartphones put a world of information in the palm of your hand. But if your phone falls into the wrong hands, you could be at risk of identity theft, credit card fraud and more,” Cooper warned. “Guard your mobile phone like you would your computer or your wallet.”

To protect personal information on smartphones, Cooper offered the following tips:

• Keep your smartphone locked. Set a passcode, pin or pattern on your home screen so if someone finds your phone they can’t access your applications or private information. Then set your phone to lock automatically after a certain period of idle time.

• Be cautious when downloading apps. Only download apps from trusted sources and make sure to check the ratings. Apps from untrusted sources may contain malware which can steal your personal information and install viruses onto your phone. Be sure to read the fine print to find out what access the app will have, such as access to photos and contacts.

• Use wireless wisely. Connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots can cut down on your data usage but it’s important to make sure the network is secure. If you are using a Wi-Fi network at a restaurant or library, ask an employee the name of the wireless network instead of guessing. Criminals will use a legitimate sounding name like “coffeeshop-guest” to lure unsuspecting users to a wireless network they have set up to steal your personal information. Don’t conduct sensitive business or banking transactions via public Wi-Fi.

• Don’t save passwords. Logout of websites and apps when you are done. Be cautious about allowing apps to save your username and password, especially banking sites or sites where your credit or debit card information may be stored.

• Turn off GPS function. Geolocation software pinpoints your exact location using your phone’s GPS latitude and longitude data. Many apps use this software to allow you to check in at a location or tag your whereabouts in pictures. While you may want to enable GPS for mapping or weather apps, use privacy settings to turn it off for photos and social media. Criminals may troll social networking sites and can use information about your location to target you.

• Turn on tracking. If included in your phone, enable the tracking feature that lets you find your phone’s location if it is lost or stolen. Most tracking features also allow you to wipe, or permanently delete, sensitive information from your phone remotely.

• Back up your smartphone. Your smartphone contains a lot of data—photos, messages, documents, contacts—that you’ll want to be able to retrieve if anything happens to your phone. Options for backing up your data vary depending on your phone’s operating system and your mobile service provider. Research your storage options and then set up a way to save important smartphone data to the cloud or another device.

• Wipe data before you part with your old phone. Since your smartphone has personal information stored on it, be sure to permanently erase pictures, contacts and other information. Wipe the internal memory so there is no trace of any personal information remaining. It’s also a good idea to restore the phone to the original default settings so your information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.