Nine Tips To Keep Mobile Devices Safe

The reality is, mobile devices are less safe than desktop computers. Boosting security on such devices is essential if you use them in business.

Information on your team members’ mobile devices is no longer limited to just phone numbers and contacts. They now contain much more significant data, such as emails, passwords, and other account details.

That’s why keeping those mobile devices secure is key to shielding your reputation and minimizing the risk of losing money.

Fortunately, you can implement robust safety measures to protect your smartphones and tablets. This article will cover the nine best practices in improving cybersecurity on mobile devices.

Establish a sound security policy

Before issuing tablets or smartphones to your teams, create an effective usage policy. Define rules about acceptable use and determine the penalties for violating them.

Your employees must be aware of the security risks and measures that can help them reduce the risks. They should know that they are the first line of defense against cybercrime.

Ensure the operating system is up to date

Updating Android and iOS operating systems improve overall user experience, but their most significant role is in addressing security vulnerabilities.

Therefore, install updates as soon as the developer rolls them out to reduce exposure to cybersecurity threats.

Enable password protection

A complex password or PIN can help prevent cybercriminals from accessing mobile devices. Besides using alphanumeric combinations, you can also use facial or fingerprint recognition, depending on what suits your employees.

If you opt for digits and letters, don’t share the combination with people outside your company. On top of that, be sure that your staff doesn’t store them on their phones. Unmarked folders and physical wallets are a much safer option.

Only install business apps

Lenient download policies can allow your team members to install non-business apps. Downloading such apps might seem harmless, but they are also infamous for their harmful advertising codes and many other threats.

To mitigate this risk, tell your employees they can only download and use apps necessary for their roles.

Avoid public Wi-Fi

Your team may need to use public Wi-Fi networks in emergencies to send crucial emails or schedule a meeting. However, connecting to such networks can expose confidential company information to cybercriminals using the same network.

The easiest way to minimize this risk is to provide a high-quality Internet plan that features roaming services for your remote workers.

Leverage phone tracking

Losing company-issued mobile devices is unfortunate, but it’s not the end of the world.

Enabling Android Phone Tracker, Find My Phone on iOS, or other device-tracking software can help locate your lost smartphones. Some programs also enable you to remove data on your stolen devices remotely.

Installing these apps takes a couple of minutes and gives you much-needed peace of mind. With it, even if your staff loses their mobile device, cybercriminals are less likely to get their hands on the content.

Use mobile device management (MDM)

For even more security, you may want to integrate with a reliable MDM. It’s an excellent way to separate personal and business information while allowing your team members to set up robust security measures on their devices.

In most cases, cloud-based software is the most affordable, flexible, and manageable type of MDM. Many platforms let you check out device information, update and manage apps, configure your devices, create restrictions, and remove content remotely.

Screen messages

Cybercriminals frequently employ SMS phishing to trick your team into clicking dangerous links. They pose as someone credible, asking your staff to share confidential information.

If your employees encounter such messages, they should delete them or alert the IT department. Another great idea is to avoid opening the SMS and block the sender.

Practice blocking and whitelisting

Many threats can compromise your company due to employee errors. For example, a team member may not realize they’re downloading a malicious app that allows thieves to steal data from their mobile devices. Blocking and whitelisting can enable you to protect your employees from these risks by determining which sites and apps are safe.

The Biggest Cyber Threat To Your Business Is In Your Pocket

According to a Verizon study, one in three businesses has admitted to suffering a breach as a result of a mobile device. The same study found that 80% of businesses were aware that they had a big gap in their network security as a result of mobile device usage.

Banning the use of mobile devices for work is not an option, however. The productivity benefits of these mobile devices are too big to give up, and chances are, employees will still use them.

So how can you make sure that your data is safe as it travels around in your (and your employee’s) pockets?

Basic protection for all operating systems

Regardless of your operating system and device model, the following security protocols can easily be implemented.

Fingerprint and/or face recognition and secure passcode – this feature not only protects you, but your employee as well. Highlight and encourage employees to set this security feature up on their devices.

Offer internal support to help less tech-inclined employees to set this up and troubleshoot common challenges with unlocking the device with these features.

Not only will this help keep your information secure if the device is lost, but it will also help prevent other unauthorized individuals from accessing your device if it is left unattended.

Use a VPN – A VPN provides a secure phone connection to a private server between your devices and your data and bypasses using public networks to access your information. This helps secure the data and encrypts it as it travels from point to point.

Enable data encryption – Both Android and iPhone devices can be encrypted through the device and it is highly recommended that you encourage your employees to activate this feature. Spreadprivacy.com has detailed instructions on how to do this for both Android and iPhone devices.

Set up remote wipe capabilities – Depending on the device, there is a function along the lines of Find My Phone that you can have implemented that will allow you to remotely lock and erase the device in the event it is lost or stolen.

Apple devices have the function built into the operating system and Android devices can enable this feature with app downloads.

Mobile protection for Android users

One of the great things about Android devices is that you have a variety of manufacturers, features, and price points to choose from.

While they might differ slightly in features and functionality, here are some basic tips for protecting your Android device:

  • Only buy Androids from vendors who are proactive in issuing security patches
  • Use 2FA (Two-factor authentication)
  • Take advantage of built-in security features
  • Do not save all passwords
  • Only buy apps from Google Play
  • Always, always back up the device’s data
  • Encrypt your device (See instructions above)
  • Be careful about connecting to public WiFi, and be diligent about securing your own WiFi networks.
  • Use the Android security app
  • Install a VPN

Mobile protection for iPhone users

Regardless of the model, all Apple iPhone devices will have the following security features. Keep in mind, however, that older models of the phone will not be able to take advantage of the newest iOS and may require an upgrade.

Here are 10 tips for keeping your iPhone safe:

  • Update the iOS frequently. You can opt into automatic software updates through your phone as well so you don’t have to keep an eye out for new updates
  • Enable 2FA (Two-factor Authentication)
  • Set the phone to “self-destruct” or wipe the entire phone after someone fails to access the phone 10 times.
  • Activate “Find my iPhone.”
  • Avoid public WiFi
  • Only use trusted iPhone charging stations
  • Change your iTunes and iCloud passwords regularly.
  • Revoke permissions to your camera, microphone, etc
  • Use a passcode longer than 4 numbers
  • Disable Siri access from the lock screen.

Take the next step

These tips will get you started on keeping your business, and personal, information safe as you roam. But this is just the first step. Take the next step and set up a full security audit to see where there may be a crack in your armor that leaves you vulnerable.

What’s Your Pocket-Sized Security Threat?

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

You guessed it. I’m talking about phones.

How many people in your business have a company-issued phone, or use their own to access company data like emails, client information, or documents? It’s probably a high number, right?

And your phone is a big risk to your data security. Smishing attacks (that’s the text message equivalent of a phishing email) increased 328% in 2020 and will probably significantly rise again this year.

That’s because it’s a goldmine for cyber criminals. 98% of text messages are read and 45% are responded to. So a smishing text is likely to yield good results for criminals.

Once your phone is infected, malware can monitor your calls and messages, download and delete your data, and if a phone is connected to your business network, the infection might even spread. [Read more…]

Are Smartphones And Tablets Killing The Traditional PC?

In the early days of the Internet, there was only one device that enabled you to access it. That was the desktop computer.

Laptop computers have existed for as long as desktops have, but due to hardware limitations, they never really became a viable alternative.

In a technical sense, laptops are “mobile” devices, but still require the user to be seated to use. It hasn’t been until recently that we have seen truly mobile devices.

The Rise Of Smartphones
The first smartphone was invented in 1992, three years before the term “smartphone” even existed. It was IBM’s “Simon,” which was a cellphone with a monochrome LCD touchscreen and a stylus.

It was the first phone was able to send faxes, pages, and emails and it was even capable of running third party applications.

It came with built-in features that are so commonplace on today’s smartphones that most people take them for granted, such as a calendar, a notepad, a world clock, and a way to schedule appointments.

Simon didn’t sell well and its $899 price tag surely didn’t help move units either. For comparison, that’s the same purchasing power as $1607 in 2018.

It wasn’t until Apple’s iPhone in 2007 that the modern smartphone became mainstream. IBM was able to sell a total of 50,000 Simon smartphones over its entire lifetime, a number that is dwarfed by Apple’s 1.4 million iPhone sales in the first year of its existence.

The Aging Desktop
Hardware advancements in recent years have made smartphones powerful enough to perform all the basic functions that consumers were using desktops for in the early days of the Internet.

Smartphones are also priced lower than their desktop counterparts. Sure, if you compare the price of a brand new, top-of-the-line smartphone to a much more powerful desktop PC you may find that the desktop by itself is less expensive.

But for a desktop to function you also need peripherals like a monitor, keyboard, a mouse, speakers, etc. You also need a desk, a chair, a constant source of power, and, in most cases, an entire dedicated room. One could make the argument that you need to pay for a cell phone service to be able to use all the functions of a smartphone, but that isn’t much different than paying for an ISP.

Tablets
In 2010, Apple made yet another mobile device that would change the tech world forever: the tablet. Tablets are essentially large smartphones although they aren’t typically used to make phone calls.

Due to their size, they are capable of carrying stronger hardware than smartphones and they are easier to use as a practical tool in the workplace. There are even specialized “professional” tablets that are designed with detachable keyboards and Bluetooth mice that run the same operating systems that their desktop cousins do.

They weigh less than modern “lightweight” notebook laptops, and have the advantage of a touchscreen. Their functionality comes at a steep price though, and it’s one that will be felt by your wallet. Most “professional” laptops will cost even more than the most powerful desktops and laptops.

No Clear Winner
Each option has different pros and based on how you intend to use it. Although smartphones and tablets have been quickly taking over the home user market, almost all workplaces still use the desktop computer.

The price per performance ratio is still in the desktop’s favor. It could be a very long time before mobile devices gain the functionality of a desktop while matching their price.

Google Maps “Guesses” Your Destination, Getting Smarter

In further proof of how the digital age has transformed daily life, you no longer have to make tough decisions about where to go when you access Google Maps from an Android device.

Google Maps now has a new feature that predicts where you would like to go and weighs all the pros and cons for you between potential destinations – even if you weren’t actively debating your options.

Let’s say you usually go to a favorite coffeehouse at about the same time every Saturday. Google Maps can now alert you if the traffic to your normal destination is exceptionally bad and can automatically provide you with less stressful alternatives based on your past behavior. You don’t even have to enter a destination – it all happens just by opening Google Maps.

The mapping app will also alert you to gas prices in the area, your estimated time of arrival to each option, and tell you the quickest way to get to your preferred choice. You can even add shortcuts, that Google Maps may have overlooked, for future use.

While this all sounds futuristic, it has the potential to be a huge time saver. Any time that you’re not quite sure of where you’re going, you can get the lowdown on the trip to your potential destinations without having to actually go there.

You can access this new feature on Android devices on the sidebar of Google Maps. Choose the option to Start Driving, and the application will quickly help you decide, if you really want to try the newest restaurant on the other side of town or stick closer to home with a tried-and-true location and have time to spare for an after-dinner coffee or cocktail.

How to Cut Down Your Mobile Data Usage

With unlimited mobile data plans being few and far between, it is imperative to monitor and manage your data usage to prevent outrageously high cellular bills. Even if you have an unlimited plan grandfathered into your service, there are other benefits to cutting down your mobile data usage, including increased battery life on your device and faster service in general. Try these tips to keep your data usage at a minimum:

• Track your usage. It’s impossible to set a usage goal or identify problems without knowing how much data you use and how you use it. Within the settings of your smartphone, you can easily find how much data you’ve used in a billing period and even set warnings for when you approach your data limits.

• Identify what applications use the most data. This can also be done within your smartphone’s settings where you can see app usage at a glance and can also set warnings or cut-off limits at this level. After assessing how much data each application uses, you may even want to delete the most data-hungry ones.

• Take advantage of free WiFi. A wide array of businesses offer free wireless Internet service as a perk to customers, so don’t pass up the opportunity to get your high-usage needs met at no expense to you. You can even configure your settings where applications only update when WiFi is available.

• Put the stymie on streaming music and video. While you may like to show your friends the latest footage off of YouTube or listen to your playlists while on a run, these activities come with a high data usage price tag. Try waiting to view videos until WiFi is available and make your playlists available offline to listen to them at will without any costly data usage.

Just by implementing these simply usage-reducing and awareness strategies, you can greatly decrease your cellular data bill and the workload on your smartphone device. This is a win-win no matter how you look at it.

Does Your Company Need An Internet Usage Policy?

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

With the growth and expansion of the Internet, it is important to make sure that your business has a policy in place to protect its assets.

Depending on your business, an Internet Usage Policy (IUP) can be long and drawn out or short and to the point.

An IUP will provide your employees with guidelines on what is acceptable use of the Internet and company network. IUPs not only protect the company, but also the employee.

Employees are informed and aware of what is acceptable when it comes to websites and downloading files or programs from the Internet.

When employees know there will be serious consequences for breaking the IUP, such as suspension or termination of employment, companies tend to notice a decrease in security risks due to employee carelessness.

You will need to make sure your IUP covers not only company equipment and your network, but also employee-owned devices such as smart phones and tablets. You may be surprised at the number of employees that feel they do not have to follow the IUP because they are using their own device to surf or download from the Internet.

Make sure you address proper usage of company-owned mobile devices. Your business may have satellite employees or a traveling sales force. Even when they are away, they need to be aware they are still representatives of the business and must follow the business IUP.

After all, it would not go over well if your sales staff was giving a presentation to a prospective client and suddenly, “adult content” ads popped-up on the screen because one of your employees was careless in their web habits.

The downloading of files and programs is a security risk in itself. Private, internal company documents and correspondence downloaded from your company’s network can become public, causing unrepairable damage.

On the same thought, employees downloading from the Internet open your company’s network up to malware attacks and infections.

There are a lot of hackers that prey upon the absent-minded employee downloading a video or song file by hiding a piece of malware within the download. Once the malware makes it into your network, there’s no telling what damage it can cause.

As for non-work related use of the company network and Internet, make sure your employees know there is no expectation of personal privacy when using the company’s network and Internet connection.

Make it well-known that the network and Internet are in place to be used for work purposes only. Improper use of the network can reduce bandwidth throughout the company network.

This includes all mobile devices owned by the company. This way, your employees know that no matter where they are they still must follow the guidelines of the IUP.

Make sure all of your employees sign the IUP and fully understand what it is they are signing. Make sure you answer any and all questions they may have.

This will help clear up any confusion your employees may have. This way, there can be no excuses as to why the IUP was broken.

Whenever you update the IUP, make sure you have all of your employees sign and understand the new additions and/or changes to the IUP. It may seem like overkill, but you’ll be glad you did if you ever run into any violations of your company’s IUP.

For assistance in creating Internet Usage Policies or if you have any questions, call the experts at Tech Experts: (734) 457-5000.

Is Antivirus Necessary For Smartphones?

July_2015_CellPhone_email_sizeChances are, you have an antivirus program installed on your personal computer. You may not, however, have the same sort of protection for your smartphone.

If you don’t, you’re certainly not alone. Being part of a majority, however, doesn’t make the data on your smartphone safe. The same threats that lurk in cyber land can attack your phone as easily as a personal computer, but there isn’t a lot of attention being given in the media and other venues about viruses on smartphones.

So, despite that lack of attention, should you install antivirus protection on your smartphones and tablets?

The truth is that you should. Smartphones are fast becoming the prime method of accessing the Internet, and the amount and nature of sensitive data on these devices puts you, your business, and even others whom you hold dear at risk.

Since many viruses are designed to gain access to personal information on devices, the risks are greater than you may think. We may not think about installing antivirus applications on our smartphones because it doesn’t address a widespread problem at this time.

In the near future, however, viral attacks on phones is inevitable. From an employer’s standpoint, the need to protect smartphones is even more important than on a personal level. With more and more business being conducted via handheld devices, a virus on a smartphone has the potential to interrupt operations, causing costly delays and compromising sensitive company data.

Security software applications that can protect smartphones are available for download. Look for one that is not just vigilant against malware, however.

It should also provide an option to remotely wipe smartphones clean in the case of a viral attack to protect company data as well as have a GPS location feature to facilitate easy recovery.

Another feature experts recommend in a security software application is the ability to limit the types of applications employees download onto their company-provided smartphones.

Security Tips To Keep Your Mobile Phone Secure

We’ve all seen the stories about celebrities getting their mobile phones hacked and having their private photos splattered all over the web.

Although you may think there is nothing of real interest on your phone, you are still at risk of security invasion. Any number of people could have motive to do so from exes to a colleague who perceives you as a threat, and even innocuous content on your phone can be taken out of context to reflect negatively on you in general.

Use some of these simple tips to protect your mobile phone and reputation:

Passwords
Your passwords are your primary defense against would-be hackers – from your lock code to email account password. Don’t share your passwords with others. Also, make sure your passwords aren’t easily guessed, such as your pet’s name or child’s birthday.

A secure password may not be as easily remembered, but it is far harder to hack. Finally, shield your phone’s screen when entering passwords in public lest onlookers take note of which buttons you push.

Clear Out the Cobwebs
In addition to creating more storage space on your mobile phone, it is just wise to remove old text conversations, photos, and other data periodically.

Back up the things you want to keep onto other devices, so you can access them later. With all of the excess stuff you don’t use on a regular basis gone, you leave less for hackers to work with if the security of your mobile phone is breached. In the event of being hacked, you would also likely lose all of those things, so backing such info up protects you twofold.

Beef Up Security
Take advantage of the lesser-known security features of your mobile phone. For example, turn off the Discoverable mode on your Bluetooth.

Look on your phone under Security to see if there are already included options, such as an automatic lock screen that activates after a certain period of inactivity.

There are also applications you can download to increase the level of security on your phone, including apps that allow you to access and control your phone remotely in the case of loss or theft.

How The “Internet of Things” Will Affect Small Business

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Just when you thought you had the Internet mastered, something new crops up on the horizon.

One of the newest advances that will likely revolutionize the world is the Internet of Things (IoT).

If you haven’t heard of this, you’re not alone, but this idea is fast becoming a realization. Simply put, the IoT refers to how it is possible to remotely control and monitor just about anything via sensors and, of course, your Internet connection – from opening your home’s garage door from your office to the level of dog food remaining in your pooch’s bowl.

This concept recently gained definition at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference when the company unveiled two applications for iOS8.

The first was the HealthKit app, which lets users keep up with health and fitness data without wearing an actual tracker. The other was the HomeKit that can remotely control electronic devices like lights and cameras at home. [Read more…]