Blocking the Threats to Your Smartphone

There’s little doubt that smartphones have changed our way of life. In the course of one generation, we’ve gone from computers being a rare oddity in most people’s homes to carrying at least one computer with us, seemingly at all times. According to Pew Research Center’s survey of smartphone behavior, 68% of US adults now carry a smartphone and use it throughout the day.

But there’s more to just having a smartphone than carrying it around with you. Further research from Pew shows that nearly 22 million Americans only access the internet through a smartphone, either due to having no other internet access, or only having very limited access. That means an entire segment of the population is relying on a handheld mobile device, one that potentially leaves them vulnerable to identity theft, scams, and fraud.

How so? Because far too many consumers overlook the fact that a smartphone is a mini computer, and as such, it needs to be protected from viruses and malware just like a laptop or desktop. For those tens of millions of users who only connect through a smartphone and the hundreds of millions of typical smartphone users, the lack of antivirus protection can prove very costly.

So where are these smartphone viruses coming from? One of the chief problems in trying to protect your smartphone is also the very thing that makes it so useful: apps. And instead of relying on the developers of the devices’ operating systems—Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, for example—to write every conceivable app, those companies have allowed third-party developers to create and sell apps to their customers.

That means tons of great apps to make your smartphone fully customized and useful, but it also means that malicious code, ransomware, and data theft are always possible. One of your first steps before downloading any new app should be to read the reviews; if previous users have bad things to say, then think twice about downloading it. Of course, if you protect your smartphone with antivirus and antimalware apps, you’re far less likely to become a victim.

There is one other key smartphone feature that can help keep you from being a victim: your own user behavior. Antivirus protection is very important, but so is knowing what websites you’re visiting, what messages you’re sharing, what content you’re downloading, what privacy settings you’ve got in place, and more. If you wouldn’t click a suspicious link in an email on your desktop, don’t do it in a text message on your smartphone. The same exact security behaviors that apply to computers still apply to your smartphone.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services, and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

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