Smart phones make it so easy to do many daily tasks -- from checking e-mail to shopping to banking. But they also make you easy prey for scammers and identity thieves. "It is very difficult to have any protection on your phone," says Dave Aitel, whose company creates penetration testing products (i.e. hacking tools).
The company, Immunity, developed a tool that can easily hack into Google Android phones, Aitel says. To be clear, it was created to test mobile security, not to be sold to people who want to tap into others' phones. Nonetheless, the tool shows how vulnerable these phones are to hackers.
Smart phone hacking works two ways. You can't pick a phone number and magically get on that phone, Aitel says. Hackers have to get the victims involved by getting them to click on a link or by tapping into their system while they're using a public Wi-Fi connection. Depending on what sort of tasks you use your phone for, one attack on it could take over your whole life, he says.
With this in mind, here are his tips for staying secure while using your smart phone:
Choose your phone wisely. Both the iPhone and Windows Phone 7 are built from the ground up to restrict what the consumers do with their phones, making them the most secure operating systems, Aitel says. BlackBerry is less secure than the iPhone and Windows Phone 7. Sorry Google fans: Android is the least secure mobile phone operating system, he says. It's accessible and easy to write applications for -- and that means less secure.
Choose your connection wisely. Stick with your phone's 3G (or 4G) network connection if you can because it is more secure than Wi-Fi. Definitely avoid public Wi-Fi connections, which give hackers easy access to your phone.
Choose what you do on your phone wisely. Aitel says shopping on your smart phone is okay as long as you use a credit card, which provides more consumer protections than other forms of payment (see Safe Ways to Shop on Your Smart Phone).
But he says DO NOT use your phone to bank online or to deposit checks to your account. "There's no halfway here," he says. "You either want someone to take all your money or you don't." (Other security experts I've talked with aren't quite so adamant about this. See Safe Ways to Bank With Your Smart Phone.)
Award-winning journalist, speaker, family finance expert, and author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk.
Cameron Huddleston wrote the daily "Kip Tips" column for Kiplinger.com. She joined Kiplinger in 2001 after graduating from American University with an MA in economic journalism.
Post-Sunset Taxation of Entities: Decoding the Changes
Sponsored Whittier Trust’s Vice President, Client Advisory/Tax, Charles Horn outlines the latest in tax
By Charles Horn, Vice President, Client Advisory/Tax, Whittier Trust Published
Burger King Free Whopper and Impossible Burger Deal
BK promotes a free Whopper offer as Wendy's faces the backlash over its surge pricing plans.
By Kathryn Pomroy Published
5 Ways to Save Money on Vacation Rental Properties
Travel Use these strategies to pay less for an apartment, condo or house when you travel.
By Cameron Huddleston Published
10 Annoying Hotel Fees and How to Avoid Them
Travel Here's how to avoid extra charges and make sure you don't get stuck paying for amenities that you don't use.
By Cameron Huddleston Last updated
The 27 Best Smart Home Devices
gadgets Innovations ranging from voice-activated faucets to robotic lawn mowers can easily boost your home’s IQ—and create more free time for you.
By Daniel Bortz Published
How to Appeal an Unexpected Medical Bill
health insurance You may receive a bill because your insurance company denied a claim—but that doesn’t mean you have to pay it.
By Rivan V. Stinson Published
Amazon Prime Fees Are Rising. Here’s How to Cancel Your Amazon Prime Membership
Amazon Prime Amazon Prime will soon cost $139 a year, $180 for those who pay monthly. If you’re a subscriber, maybe it’s time to rethink your relationship. Here’s a step-by-step guide to canceling Prime.
By Bob Niedt Published
How to Choose the Right Payment App
banking Using PayPal, Venmo, Zelle and other apps is convenient, but there are pros and cons to each.
By Lisa Gerstner Published
Shop for a New Wireless Plan and Save Big
Smart Buying Competition is fierce, and carriers are dangling free phones and streaming subscriptions.
By Rivan V. Stinson Published
Watch Out for Job Listing Fraud
Scams If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to find new employment in 2022, be on guard against job-listing scams.
By Emma Patch Published