5 habits for better mobile security

Users of the two most common mobile operating systems, which are Android or iOS, are generally quite secure.

People use their mobile devices for many purposes which require personal information. From banking transactions, to saving your credit card details for your next Grab ride, all the way down to storing contact details in your phone book, that one mobile device is like a buffet spread attracting information thieves.

Installing antivirus apps or malware blockers as you would do on your desktop computers is not a viable option anymore.

Based on a recent finding from AV-Comparatives, most antivirus apps are really quite useless. They do not function like their desktop counterparts, providing only a false sense of security.

Users of the two most common mobile operating systems, which are Android or iOS, are generally quite secure.

Security vulnerabilities usually lie in human choices. Simply said, users themselves are the ones who allow opportunities for their information to be stolen.

So, how can you avoid self-sabotage? You can start by nurturing these five good habits to maintain better mobile device security.

Habit 1: Use Google Play Store or Apple App Store

By far, one of the safest ways to get secure apps onto your mobile device is to access the official stores. For Android devices, there is the Google Play store, while iOS devices use the Apple App Store.

All apps on both stores are vetted for their content. With hundreds if not thousands of apps created daily, sometimes malicious apps do sneak in and get listed on these stores.

Rest assured that these occurrences are rare, and quick action is usually taken by the store to remove the offending content.

Use the comments section or the ratings as general guidelines, while most apps with the Editor’s Choice seal of approval, are a safe bet.

Restrain from using third-party stores, as most do not vet apps as thoroughly and may even be a front for nefarious activities.

Habit 2: Do not side-load

Side-loading is an activity of installing apps from sources other than official stores, and this does not only mean from third-party app stores.

Side-loading apps can come straight from a hyperlink or a USB drive. Fortunately, iOS devices do not allow side-loading while Android devices require the owner to decisively select an option allowing side-loading.

There are a lot of reasons that you might want to side-load an app, so make sure you have made due diligence before downloading.

Try to do a virus scan on the said item from a PC or a laptop. Make sure the source has been authenticated, or is from someone you trust. Do also try to find the same app on Google Play or the Apple App store instead.

Ensure your phone has either fingerprint sensors or face unlock to ensure your mobile device’s security at all times.

Habit 3: Use in-built security features

Back in the day, password locking with either a number passcode or drawing a pattern on the screen was the only option for mobile device security. Nowadays, even budget phones include fingerprint sensors and facial unlock.

Fingerprint sensors recognises the unique grooves of your fingertips to validate the identity of the user, while face unlock does the same, only with the features of your face.

Some apps will utilise the security features found on your mobile device to validate your identity, making it harder for others to access your personal data within the app.

If, by some chance you own a mobile device without any of the above mentioned features, no harm in falling back to using a password or a symbol unlock instead. Some security is better than no security.

Habit 4: Control app permissions

It makes little sense when an alarm app is asking for permission to access your phone’s GPS signal.

Periodically verify the permissions you have given to the apps on your mobile device. Make sure that these apps only use functions that are necessary for them to work.

This would require a bit of trial and error, along with some common sense, but you will eventually figure out what the minimal requirement is for an app to work.

If you’ve made a mistake, you can always redo the permissions you have given to an app in your App Settings menu.

Habit 5: Install with caution

Check your mobile device. You should only have installed apps that you do use. Uninstall apps you have not used in months, for these can sometimes continue to have access to your data even if you have not used them.

By reducing the number of apps installed on your device, you effectively free-up more space for use.

Be particularly careful of sketchy game apps that request for your credit card information, or for you to provide some form of payment method.

With a bit of common sense and a healthy dose of caution, mobile device security is neither difficult nor tedious to keep up with. Start practicing these five habits today.

This article first appeared in MyPF. Follow MyPF to simplify and grow your personal finances on Facebook and Instagram.