6. Keep Your Phone 'In Jail'
This one's pretty simple. It's tempting to "jailbreak" or "root" your smartphone to access hidden features and unofficial apps. But if you're concerned about security, don't do it. This can circumvent many of the safeguards built into the smartphone's operating system, opening avenues of vulnerability that may not be readily apparent.
7. Avoid Wi-Fi Hotspots
Think twice before connecting your smartphone to a public Wi-Fi hotspot, because just as with your PC, this kind of shared, unsecured connection can leave your activity and data vulnerable to eavesdropping and theft.
Note: If you want to connect your smartphone to a corporate network securely (rather than simply to the Internet), you can do so with a VPN if your corporate network is so equipped. If it is, you'll need specific information from your IT department in order to configure the connection on your phone.
How to find VPN settings:
Android: You'll find VPN settings under Settings > Wireless and networks > VPN settings.
BlackBerry (Wi-Fi enabled): Go to Options > Security Options > VPN.
iPhone: Go to Settings > General > Network > VPN.
Windows Phone 7: Doesn't currently support VPN connections.
8. Mind Your Mobile Apps
With such a wide selection of smartphone apps available -- most of them free or low-cost -- it's tempting to load up on anything and everything that catches your fancy. That's not a good idea, because you can't really be sure what an app is going to do once it's on your phone.
For example, malware-laden apps were recently discovered (and removed) from the Android app marketplace, and federal prosecutors recently began investigating whether numerous app makers are, in violation of privacy laws, collecting and transmitting personal data (often to advertising networks) without users' knowledge or content.
There's not too much you can do to protect yourself from unseen app behavior, other than to keep the number of apps to a minimum, and if possible, use an anti-virus app, which brings us to our next tip.
9. Use Anti-virus Software
As we mentioned earlier, the proliferation of smartphone has not gone unnoticed by malware purveyors, who are increasingly targeting the devices for attack. You probably wouldn't dream of using a PC without anti-virus protection, and in a world where every app, Web link, or email you access with your smartphone can potentially harbor something malicious, it's a good idea to use anti-virus software there as well.
Unfortunately, it's not as simple as that, because anti-virus software isn't available on every smartphone platform. Anti-virus apps are notably absent on iPhone and Windows Phone 7 devices, for example, presumably based on the idea that Microsoft's and Apple's tight control over their respective operating systems and app stores obviates the need for protection.
While this does reduce the risk, it certainly doesn't eliminate it. Consolation prize for iPhone users: you can download Trend Micro's Smart Surfing, which checks the websites you visit against a database of those known to contain malicious content.
The open nature of the Android platform (apps aren't as closely vetted as on say, the iPhone) makes it particularly susceptible to malware, but fortunately there are many protection options available, such as the free AVG Mobilation Anti-Virus, which scans websites, email, text messages, files and apps and offers a remote location lock-and-wipe feature to boot. (A $10 Pro version eliminates ads and provides technical support.)
Another good (and free) option for Android devices is Lookout Mobile Security, though you need to ante up for a paid Premium subscription $3/mo or $30/year) for certain features, such as the ability to remotely lock and wipe.
10. Beware of Text Message Spam
Text messages seem innocuous enough, but just like a Web page or an email, they can be used for mischief. Especially if you don't/can't use smartphone anti-virus protection, never respond to or follow any links in a text sent by an unknown party. You could find yourself with unwanted software on your phone or unexplained charges on your bill.
Joseph Moran is a longtime technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7 from Friends of Ed.
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