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Protecting Wifi and Smartphones

by Kevin McKinley - October 18th, 2015

Posted Under: identity theft

It’s still October, so it’s still “National Cybersecurity Awareness Month”, and so we’re still offering up tips to protect all of your electronic activity and information.

Here are some words of wisdom on using wireless internet access, and smartphones.

Watch out on wi-fi

Whether you’re at home or on the road, using wireless internet access can provide another point of access to you hackers trying to get at your private information.

To shield personal or business wi-fi routers, start by clearing the default user names and passwords that come pre-installed on the router.

Change the information to versions that don’t give away your identity (i.e., using your family’s last name in the designation), and use passwords that are difficult to hack.

Visit the router manufacturer’s website frequently to download updates and security patches.

Change the password every so often, and write the new version down and keep it where authorized users can find it (perhaps on or near the router itself).

If you can, avoid using your wi-fi’s WEP (“Wireless Equivalent Privacy”), and instead use the more secure WPA2 wireless encryption.

Public wi-fi spots are also potentially vulnerable access points for thieves.

Before using one, check with the provider (such as the coffee shop) to make sure you’ve identified which wireless network is theirs.

While using public wi-fi, avoid using unencrypted websites to send or receive information. You can tell if a website and its pages are encrypted if the far left side of each page’s address in the browser bar begins with “https”, instead of “http”.

If you need to regularly use public wi-fi and have to send sensitive information over networks of unknown safety, consider using a VPN (“Virtual Private Network”) to

Once you’re finished with a session using public wi-fi, make sure you log out of all applications (such as Gmail or Facebook), save and close any documents, and delete your browsing history by pressing the “Control”, “Alt”, and “Delete” keys simultaneously.

Safeguard your cell phone

All the convenience and capability provided by a smartphone can also mean that this easily-misplaced or stolen device can pose a disaster if is lost or stolen.

Unless your phone already requires your fingerprint to gain access, make sure you activate the password-protection feature, and have it automatically turn on as quickly as possible when the phone isn’t in use.

Frequently back up the files and information on your phone, using iTunes and the iCloud for Apple phones, and a program like Avast’s Backup and Restore for Android phones.

Whether you misplace your phone or someone takes it, you’ll be glad you activated the “Find my iPhone” feature on your iPhone now.

Recent versions of Android smartphones can add the same type of protection.

Go to “Google Settings” and then “Device Manager” to find it.

You can also install a “kill switch” on your smartphone that will prevent thieves from changing the passwords and accessing or erasing your data.

Limit sending and receiving sensitive data (such as financial account numbers) via your smartphone, especially if you’re using an unfamiliar wi-fi network.

When you’re not using wi-fi or Bluetooth features, turn them off. If left on they can provide crooks with a gateway to the data on your device.

Be wary of texts and emails from strangers, especially if they include a link or file that they ask you to open.

Don’t respond to any requests to enter “confirmation codes”, even if they appear to come from legitimate organizations. Instead, go directly to the related account online and see if the so-called request really originated with them.

The same goes for apps that come from little-known providers. At best, the bad ones can harvest data from your smartphone that you would prefer to keep confidential.

At worst, they can add “malware” to your phone’s operating system that can steal your personal information and/or damage your phone.

When you move from one phone to another, make sure you erase all of your data on the old phone before selling it or giving it to someone, or trading it in.