Thursday, October 17, 2013

Three Tips to Keep Your Mobile Data Safe

Keeping your mobile gear secure while you’re zipping across the grid is tricky business. Laptops and tablets—veritable gold mines of personal information—are popular targets for thieves. Law enforcement officials, meanwhile, could confiscate your smartphone and then examine the data—merely as a result of a routine traffic stop.

If you’re packing an Android device, it gets even trickier, because with such a device, you stand a better chance of falling prey to the booming mobile malware market. Independent malware testing lab AV-Test had less than 10,000 Android malware samples in its database by late 2011. Now, two years later, that number has blossomed to around 1.3 million.

Step One:
Encrypt everything

One of the easiest things you can do to protect an Android or iOS device is to take advantage of built-in hardware encryption. This feature will turn the data on your phone into nearly unreadable junk—unless it's properly unlocked with your password.

Let's start with the easy one: iOS. Owners of iPhones or iPads can rest easy knowing the data is already encrypted, provided you create a passcode from the lock screen.

Step Two:
Keep malware at bay

Android users are particularly vulnerable to malware. Google, unlike Apple, doesn’t vet applications before they go live on Google Play. This has proven an easy way for malware creators to sneak malicious apps onto Google’s app store. Malware-laden apps range from those offering free device wallpaper to games, and even to impostors that try to look like popular apps.

That’s why security vendors such as Avast, Kaspersky, and Lookout offer antivirus and security apps for Android to help keep you secure online. But how good are these apps, really? Back in late 2011, results from the AV-Test lab found that the free solutions were nearly useless.

Step Three:
Go Covert

You can protect your data from being nabbed by a Customs agent and downloaded into some massive data silo in the Utah desert. The Electronic Frontier Foundation suggests an interesting option: Leave the hard drive at home and boot your laptop from an SD card.

(Full instructions on how to create a Ubuntu boot disk or USB boot drive in Ubuntu guide for displaced Windows users.) ...Even if you don’t have any sensitive data to protect, this is such a great, secret-agent-style use for your laptop that you might want to try it simply for the cool factor. (more)