Smart Phone Safety Tips From a Professional Hacker

Your security depends on the type of phone, broadband connection and applications you use.

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.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

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.)

Follow me on Twitter

Cameron Huddleston
Former Online Editor,

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 She joined Kiplinger in 2001 after graduating from American University with an MA in economic journalism.