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Are your smartphone and other mobile devices safe?

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Your tablets and smartphones contain personal, confidential and sensitive data.

Whereas in 2013, only 38% of Belgians owned or had access to a smartphone, this figure rose to 84% of Belgians (aged 18 to 75) in 2018. Among 18-24 year olds, the rate of smartphone ownership rose to 96%, with 40% of this age group watching a video on their device every day.

When you consider that more than 43% of Belgians do not protect their equipment (2019 data), there is cause for concern ... and imagine the number of cyber dangers they are directly facing.

Indeed, the increase in high-tech equipment does not necessarily mean an increase in knowledge and skills regarding one's own devices and their security. Quite the opposite! The constant proximity of these mobile devices (in your pocket or handbag) also gives the impression that they are safe. However...!

The user must still secure their mobile devices (smartphone, tablet), particularly if the same device is used for both business and personal reasons.

What can I do to secure my mobile device?

  • Personalise your pin code (e.g. min. 6 digits, biometric recognition) and integrate automatic locking for your device.
  • Encrypt your mobile (on Android and iPhone). This feature is enabled by default on Android Marshmallow - Honeycomb 3.0. It has also been a feature of iPhones since IOS8.
  • Keep OS and applications up to date.
  • Delete apps you no longer use.
  • Limit access to your applications to what is strictly necessary. An application that acts as a calculator, for example, does not need to access your location or contacts.
  • Do not download apps from anywhere other than Play Store or Apple Store.
  • Activate the security options of the tools you use (when possible), such as two-factor authentication (Gmail, Facebook,...), access code, etc.
  • Activate access to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Near Field Communication (NFC), mobile data, geolocation, etc. only when you need it. Do not choose the automatic activation functions.
  • Make regular backups via iCloud, Google Drive, OneDrive or other media such as an external hard drive.
  • Do not leave your device lying around. Close supervision and personal use only are essential.

What to do at the end of a device's life

The same safety precautions should be taken when changing devices. "Empty" your tablet or smartphone of all photos or other downloaded documents. Then "Reset to factory settings".

What to do if you lose your device

•    Change all the passwords of apps which you can also access via a web version: Gmail, Facebook, Office365, etc.
•    Depending on your device, wipe your data remotely (remote wipe with Android and Iphone).

This article is part of an information security awareness programme of the BRIC. Other useful reminders and recommendations will follow on a regular basis