8 steps for better device security
Key ways to keep your phone and computer safe
Spending more time online either through our phones, laptops or computers can put us at risk of personal information being hacked. Here are some tips on how to keep your devices as secure as possible.
In this section
- Have a password/PIN for all your devices
- Use virus protection software
- Turn on GPS/Wifi tracking where possible
- Update your device regularly
- Avoid connecting to free, sketchy wifi
- Avoid dodgy websites
- If selling/passing on the device, make sure to reset it
- If using someone else's device, make sure to sign out
Have a password/PIN for all your devices
One of the most basic recommendations would be to ensure your devices have passwords or a PIN. This will ensure that your device (computer, mobile or tablet) cannot be used by anyone but yourself if left unattended. If the device is lost or stolen, having a password or PIN will make accessing the devices information much more difficult.
- Choose a complex password or PIN
- Make sure your device automatically locks if left alone for more than a few minutes in the case of a phone or tablet, or locks after 15 minutes if using a laptop or desktop
- Don't use the same PIN for multiple devices, or use the same PIN as your bank card.
Use virus protection software
Most people have had a virus mess with their device from time to time. They can harm your device in a multitude of ways. They can slow down your device, try to get you to purchase meaningless items or even harvest your personal information. The best way to protect yourself is to install virus protection software. There are a wide rage of free and paid virus scanning software so check around before making a decision.
When choosing virus software, always make sure of the following:
- Remove any other virus scanners you may have, even trials as having more than one may slow down your device or cause false alarms
- Always have your operating system up to date
Some great free options include AVG, Avast and the Microsoft Security Essentials. For the most part, iOS and Mac devices computer don’t suffer as many viruses as their PC and Android counterparts but they are not totally immune. Be sure to have your devices up to date at all times.
Turn on GPS/Wifi tracking where possible
Most modern tablets and phones (and an increasing number of desktop and laptop computers) will allow you to track them via GPS and location assisted WIFI should they become lost or stolen. Check with your device makers website for availability, but this is a really great idea. Being able to track in real-time the whereabouts of your device in the case of it being lost would be incredibly useful in trying to recover it. There are limits to its usefulness, as for the most part it relies on the device being turned on and having battery left. More details about doing this for Apple iOS devices and Android devices are available here on SpunOut.ie.
Update your device regularly
Most viruses, malware and hackers rely on taking advantage of old loopholes in your devices operating/security system to do damage. When these loopholes are exposed companies rush to patch the software and send an update to your device. Regularly updating your device means that it will always have the most up to date version of its software and reduce the likelihood of getting some pretty nasty viruses and malware. An up-to-date device is a secure device.
Avoid connecting to free, sketchy wi-fi
Who doesn’t love getting some free wifi? The sad thing is that wifi networks in public places, without proper security in place can be a breeding ground for nasty viruses and malware, not to mention gathering data from how people use the internet it provides. In a lot of cases, hackers can see a lot of the information transmitted on the wifi network they control.
If you are connecting to a network in a public place try to limit the sensitive information you send. Take it for granted that someone may be watching and make sure you are connected only to secure websites. You can check this by making sure the URL starts with HTTPS instead of HTTP. That extra ‘S’ will make a big difference as it makes sure that the only people seeing the data sent is you and the server the website is stored on.
Also, when you’re done browsing be sure to have your device “forget this network” as it will prevent it from automatically connecting to it in the future.
Avoid dodgy websites
A huge amount of viruses and malware these days comes from people trying to get content from third party streaming and download websites. Notice all the weird pop-ups and dodgy third party banners on the websites? They could be installing things in the background without your knowledge. If you can get your content via official channels you should always go for it. It will almost always be high quality, legal and be free of malware and viruses.
If selling or passing on your device, make sure to reset it
When the time comes to get a new device, a great option to make a little money or make someones day is to pass it on to a friend or relative. This is a great option and helps reduce the number of electronics going into landfills. Before you say goodbye to the device however, make sure you have fully reset the device and cleared any personal data. This is important for a few reasons:
- It will remove any personal information such as financial information or chat/email history
- Will also purge the computer of any viruses or malware you may or may not have known about
- Will usually result in the most up-to-date operating system being installed
- Will make the device all nice and fresh for its new owner
If using someone elses device, be sure to sign out
Sometimes you just need to borrow a device for a few minutes. Whether it’s to check your email or see something on a social media network, sometimes it just has to be done. When you’re doing this however you need to make sure you are only signing in temporarily. It would be awful if the owner of the device could log back into your accounts when you’ve handed it back.
- When signing in, never click “remember password” or “save sign-in information” on the browser
- Be sure to fully sign out when you’re done
- Enable two-step sign in for your account if you want total security