Information Security

 

Secure my mobile devices

Secure my mobile devices

Introduction

These days, there isn't much you can't do on the go using a laptop, smartphone, tablet or some new mobile gizmo or other. We're all busy using these portable mini-computers to shop, bank, work, get directions, read reviews, take pictures, make videos, connect with family and friends... some of them even apparently let you make phone calls! With so much that is important and useful to you in the palm of your hand, security is paramount. Find out about the main risks to your device and how to protect your data.

Audience:

Everyone

At a glance

  • Use a good password or PIN and make sure your device locks automatically when not in use.
  • Only install apps from locations you trust and apply security updates.
  • Set up a 'remote wipe' feature if available, in case your device gets lost or stolen.

In detail

Having a mini-computer you can use any time anywhere sure is handy. But portability has its own particular security implications for your device and data:

  • The smaller and more portable your device, the more easily it can get lost, damaged or stolen.
  • Your data can be intercepted if you connect to insecure or rogue wifi networks.
  • Portable devices can get hacked and pick up viruses and other malware just like any other computer (even mobile phones which, out of the box, are actually pretty secure devices).
  • You are more exposed to 'shoulder surfing' when using a portable device in a public place - always check no one's looking over your shoulder or earwigging any confidential conversations.

Simply keeping your wits about you will go a long way to protecting your devices as you move around. For the rest, check out the advice below.

Phones get dropped. Pockets get picked. Tablets get left on bus seats. Accidents and mishaps happen. But there are things you can do to protect your data even if your device gets broken, lost or stolen:

  • Always set a password/PIN-protected lock-screen to come on automatically when you are not using your device. Ideally, change the default settings so you can use a longer PIN or passphrase. And if your device has fingerprint ID or other advanced security, use that. On smartphones, encryption is often also enabled automatically when you set up a password/PIN (though do check the user guide for your model).
  • Make sure you have a master copy of any documents you carry or edit on your mobile device saved somewhere else.
  • Install security updates to your device and the apps you have on it. This helps protect the operating system from the latest malware.
  • Don't be tempted to 'jailbreak' your device. What your mobile device can access and download is deliberately limited to reduce your exposure to malware, so overriding these restrictions is not recommended.
  • Only install apps from trusted locations. In practice, this means only using the app store which came with your device - this will be Apple Store, Google Play or Microsoft Store. There may be other stores available for your device, especially in your home country if you don't live in the UK or US. If these are large and reputable they are probably safe to use, but you should still be careful when it comes to any app which asks for sensitive data such as passwords or credit card details.
  • Never use any app store which offers free (pirated) copies of popular apps - they're frequently loaded with malware.

Can you put a price on what you store on your mobile device? Maybe it includes sentimental items such as photos of family and friends, important work documents, and account information and apps that help you organise your busy life. If you don't protect your mobile device before it gets lost or stolen, the cost of a replacement could be the least of your worries. Our advice is:

  • Set your device to 'erase data' and/or lock if the wrong password is entered too many times.
  • Set up a 'remote wipe' feature if one is available for your device.
  • If you have lost University data, contact your local IT support team for further guidance.