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TECHNOLOGY

There's a Ticking Time Bomb in Your Pocket
 

The biggest threat to your personal data may be your smartphone. Here's how to close the mobile security gaps that pose the highest hacking risks.

Junya Ogura/Flickr

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My company, AnchorFree, has a very straightforward value proposition: Unsecured Internet use is dangerous; our encryption products make it safer. This pitch became even easier to make when NBC News recently aired a report on hacking in Sochi.

Within minutes of connecting to an open, unsecured Internet connection at the Olympics, a brand-new computer and Android device were hacked, according to the report. Personal data--faked deliberately to prove a point--was stolen and uploaded to a Russian server in the space of 24 hours.

The fact is, this isn't a Sochi problem. This isn't even an international problem. This could happen at any Starbucks or any office. Simple packet sniffers, installable in a browser, can easily take your data from anywhere. And more complex hacking methods aren't too difficult for more educated computer users.

This is cause for alarm, to be sure. But don't panic or hibernate. This is why virtual private networks like Hotspot Shield exist: to help you encrypt your data in a few clicks and shut out hackers. It's a simple tool that can and will be used to save people from very real danger.

Protecting your phone, a ticking time bomb of potentially sensitive data, from hackers is not always turnkey, but it can be done. Here are ways you can protect any mobile or portable device you're taking outside of the house.

1. Use a six-digit or longer unlock code, or drop unlock codes entirely

Though it's not completely hacker-proof, Apple's iPhone 5S fingerprint scan is a hard-to-beat system for phone security. Furthermore, adding two or more digits to the standard four-digit unlock code for a phone will further bolster your defense against potential theft. There are plenty of options on Android to completely remove PIN codes and pattern unlocks. The truth is that a dedicated hacker will find a way past these, but you'll protect yourself from the majority of assailants by being more diligent here.

2. Always set up a mobile security option

Apple's Find My iPhone (and Find My Mac, for laptops) will let you remotely lock and wipe a computer or phone if it's stolen or track it using its internal GPS. This is a great way to save your data if you lose your phone. Google recently launched Android Device Manager for all Android phones to mimic this functionality. For Windows machines, Prey runs secretly in the background if your machine is stolen and you want to catch the thief in action.

3. Use two-step authentication

Though this won't help if someone steals your phone, it will help if your laptop goes "missing." Simply put, Google and many other social networks and services let you use two-step authentication to verify your username, password, and a code from your mobile device. This can and will save you in situations in which your data might be compromised.

4. Pay attention to your browser

Chrome and other browsers will now display a little icon (usually a key or a padlock) to confirm that the site you are on is the correct one. When you log in to unsecured Wi-Fi networks, they can automatically send your device to a website. Pay attention: If the website looks right but isn't verified by your browser, shut it down instantly.

Last updated: Feb 14, 2014

As CEO and co-founder, DAVID GORODYANSKY leads the execution of all business operations at AnchorFree. He raised more than $63 million in VC financing for AnchorFree and pioneered the vision of enabling global privacy and security on the Web.
@AnchorFreeDavid




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