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Digital Theft and User Awareness: Learn to Protect Your Data

Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

“Digital” is probably the most resonating word seen across the world wide web. It is the new truth. It is the new universe. And this universe comes with its own set of threats.

Latest surveys suggest there are 2.7 billion mobile phone users around the world. There are 194 billion apps downloads worldwide. 1.76 billion user records were leaked in January 2019. Approximately 11 billion USD worth of information leak might happen in the present year.

Digital Theft has become more of a trend than Digital Marketing in the present climate. Cyber security is allocated major budget in every organization. However, it is the individual mobile phone users who are at major risk, mostly because they are unaware.

What is Digital Theft?

Digital theft on mobile phones can be defined as leaking of personal information such as bank account/credit card details, pictures, contact numbers, passwords, organizational information etc. It can include identity theft- stealing someone’s identification details and using that to get access to restricted websites & applications. In the last few years hackers have showcased their talents by hacking major celebrity phones and spreading their personal content on the web. Mobile phone companies are trying to combat the hackers by regularly updating their software and adding additional security features with new models.

Lack of User Awareness

Major percentage of all data breaches is contributed by malicious or criminal attack via malware breaches. Other two prominent factors are: system glitches and human errors. In this article we will discuss the latter- human errors.

Mobile malwares are on the rise with each passing day. What exposes an individual user to threat in such eco-system?

Outdated operating systems and unsafe apps. A majority of mobile phones (approximately 25%) run on outdated operating systems for varied reasons. An even bigger number of phones have multiple apps installed that are not safe in terms of data breach. Even the applications that claim to be safe have been prey to data breach, noted name amongst such apps is: Uber.

Unaware users often leave crucial information unprotected, enter personal information in apps without verifying, and fail to put up basic security walls on their phones.

How can Users Protect their Data? While it is impossible to be ready for every threat, it is possible to make your mobile device less vulnerable than others. By taking few precautionary measures you can keep your personal information safe in case of digital theft or physical stealing of the mobile device.

iOS Users

Apple is known for its exclusive features and flawless operating system. Users buy this device because it promises a hassle-free usage. In its 94-page long security document, iPhone iOS developers discuss the importance they place at safety of their user information.

Apple has made efforts to create an entire safety ecosystem which consists of mobile devices, software, and support. To keep your iOS mobile devices safe, you can follow the tips stated below:

· Facial recognition, touch id and strong passwords: When apple introduced the facial recognition feature, it advertised it to be the safest phone ever. While it can become that, users need to follow a safe method for it to work. Facial recognition and touch id have both been reported to fail when forced through, that leaves your phone at the mercy of your password. Users with advanced login features often use weak passcodes on the device. In scenarios where hackers/ thieves manage to force past your face or touch id- your password can be easily guessed. And once your password is known, anything can be stolen from the device. It is advised to keep your passwords mixed and strong.

· Find My Phone- Improved Find my phone is another feature which can protect your personal data in case of physical stealing. However, you can stay one step ahead of the thief by activating lock on this feature. Often when this feature is not locked, a thief can simply switch it off and be gone with your device, risking all your personal data.

· Updated Software prevents Downgrade An updated iOS operating system prevents users from downgrading the OS. Hackers might try to downgrade your phone to leverage some bugs that might be fixed in the new version. Always keep your OS updated.

· Two- Step Authentication For extra security of iOS devices and accounts associated with such devices, Apple introduced two-step authentication. This is a strong process where users need to add more than a password to get through to crucial settings on phone or cloud accounts. Users are advised to make the best of this feature by using complex passcodes and questions for the authentication. Do not use something anyone can easily guess.

· App Verification Applications are a crucial part of security architecture provided by Apple. Although apple provides layers of safety on all applications and requires applications to adhere to guidelines, malicious attacks or data leak might still happen. What can you do as a user? Make sure you verify the credibility of an application before installing it on your Operating System. Check user reviews read blogs about the applications online and carefully go through the application access requests. If a fitness app is asking for your photos access, you must ask yourself, why would the app need that permission? We are only as safe as we are aware.

Android Users Android is arguably the most used mobile device operating system in the world. At present, Android has 2 billion + active users. Android did not have any safety architecture like Apple, to begin with. However, a partnership with Google has amplified Android’s safety features, thanks to the machine learning technology.

In its latest version, the android OS- Android 9 Pie, offers an added layer of security by supporting temper-resistant hardware.

Yet, Android mobile phones vary in design and capabilities. Many of the low-grade handsets are vulnerable to hacking and data leak. They are also easily physically manipulated.

Here is what you can do to protect your personal data from being stolen:

· Unload Inactive Apps Forbes reports that an average mobile phone user has 90 apps installed on their phones. Out of which only 9 is used on a daily basis and about 60 remain unused for long stretches. Users should delete or uninstall apps that are not being actively used. Chances are, they are sitting on your phone leaking your personal information.

· Malware protection To save your phones from malware attacks refrain from connecting it to untrusted devices, verify all apps before installing, and if your handset does not offer high level protection download an antivirus app from play store.

· Don’t Trust Open Wi-Fi Every café and major public buildings are offering free Wi-Fi these days. You might be tempted to used them and save your mobile data. Beware! Open Wi-fis are prone to attacks and information leak of your online usage. It is a difficult way to attack, but expert hackers might be hidden in plain sight.

· Stay Updated This cannot be stressed enough: update your software. This is the most basic need for most of your safety features to work. Update your operating system whenever possible. Also, keep your phone locating system updated as well. In case of a physical loss, your security measures should render it useless.

Hackers and data thieves are updating their game with every passing day, but by adhering to the mentioned safety techniques you can lessen the risk of having exposed data. Being digital is a responsibility and being aware is your task. Help your mobile phone providers keep your data personal and locked. Stay aware, stay safe.

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