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Protect Your Smartphone From Hackers

Whether you’re in the tractor, combine, or pickup, your smartphone is probably not far from reach. In fact, a recent Successful Farming® technology study revealed that more than 70% of farmers have a smartphone on them while in the cab of their tractor, combine, or pickup.

As these devices have evolved, they have become much more than a supplement to or even a replacement for a landline. Today, farmers are using these mini computers to check the weather and markets, answer emails, monitor irrigation pivots, and track crops or machinery. Sometimes, they’re even used as an extension of the wallet.

With all of these added features, are you being as safe with your smartphone as you can? Or are you leaving the door wide open for a hacker to steal your information?

Smartphone Hacking On The Rise

In Nokia’s recent Threat Intelligence Report, which examines general trends and statistics for malware infections in devices connected through mobile and fixed networks, infections rose 96% in the first half of 2016. Smartphones accounted for 78% of all mobile network infections. Android devices were the most targeted platform at 74%. Devices were hardest hit in April, with one of every 120 smartphones incurring some type of malware infection.

“Security is a very real concern for any device with an IP address, be it Android, iPhone, or even a Windows PC connected to the mobile network,” says Kevin McNamee, who leads the Nokia Threat Intelligence Lab. “While Android infections continue to rise and become more sophisticated, the Nokia Threat Intelligence Report from late 2015 was the first time we saw iOS malware make our top 20 list. We also saw a rise in a variety of ransomware apps that try to extort money by claiming to have encrypted the phone’s data.”

As malware (which includes ransomware, spyphone applications, SMS trojans, personal information theft, and aggressive adware) becomes more sophisticated, hackers are using multiple methods to bypass safeguards and to take control of your device. 

For example, new variations are attempting to entrench in a phone to gain complete control and to establish a lasting presence on the device. The more state-of-the-art the malware, the more difficult it can be to detect and remove.

Apps that are downloaded, the report goes on to say, are a key conduit for malware attacks.

“Today, attackers are targeting a broader range of applications and platforms, including popular mobile games and new IoT (Internet of Things) devices, and are developing more sophisticated and destructive forms of malware,” says McNamee. 

tips to reduce risk

Consider these 10 tips to reduce your risk of a mobile security threat.

  1. Set PINs and passwords. Prevent unauthorized access to your phone by setting a password or personal identification number (PIN) on your phone’s home screen. Experts say you should configure your phone to automatically lock after five minutes or less when not in use. 
  2. Don’t modify security settings. Altering your phone’s factory settings undermines the built-in security features and makes you more susceptible to an attack.
  3. Back up and secure your data. The information stored on your phone should always be backed up. Doing so will make restoring information that much easier should your phone be stolen, lost, or have its data erased.
  4. Install apps only from trusted sources. Before you download a single app, ensure that it is legitimate. You can do this by checking reviews and verifying the store it’s coming from. Once installed, a number of apps from untrusted sources can contain malware that not only steals your information but also installs viruses and damages the content on your phone. 
  5. Understand app permissions. Be cautious about granting an app access to your personal information or performing functions on your phone. You should also check the privacy settings of each app before you install it.
  6. Install security apps that enable remote location and wiping. A security feature for smartphones, either by default or as an app, lets you remotely locate and erase all of the data on your phone, even if the phone’s GPS is turned off. Other apps set off an alarm if you misplace or lose your phone. 
  7. Accept updates and patches. Even if you dread the software upgrades, you should keep your operating system current to reduce the risk of cyber threats. Always enable automatic updates or accept updates when you receive a request from your service provider.
  8. Be smart on open WiFi. When you tap into public WiFi, you also are tapping into potential problems, because you are now a target for cyber criminals. Limit your use of public hotspots and use protected WiFi from a trusted network or wireless connection.
  9. Wipe data. Protect your privacy by ensuring you completely erase the data from your old phone before you get rid of it. Reset the device to its initial factory settings.
  10. Report theft. Major wireless providers, in conjunction with the FCC, have created a stolen phone database. Report a theft to your local law enforcement. You should then register the stolen phone with your wireless provider, who can restrict the phone from being activated on a wireless network without your permission.  
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