As work becomes more flexible, our mobile devices more powerful, new vulnerabilities emerge. Phones and laptops are almost always on us, they’re full of juicy data — both personal and work, making them prime targets for anyone with the skills to gain access. But all is not lost! Here are some of the things you can do, technical and not, to secure your work devices.
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Keep clear of public wifi
When you’re out and about it can be tempting to connect to a public WiFi network to shoot off an email or download a file. Using the WiFi at a coffee shop or library for instance. While this may sound convenient, it can be a security nightmare. These networks are open, and combined with a large concentration of users, make sweet targets for hackers. Further, a lot of what you do over a public WiFi is visible – websites you visit, what you type into unencrypted websites or forms, even messages you send. So the first step in mobile security is to abstain from public networks whenever you can.
Use a VPN
If you must use public WiFi network, and even if you don’t, connect through a virtual private network. VPN’s have gone mainstream thanks to geoblocking, as people seek to avoid censors or access content with a reasonable price and selection. But they have other uses — many companies use them as a way to secure sensitive data when connecting to a network remotely. A VPN creates an encrypted connection to a private network — like a work network, perfect to avoid snooping and secure work.
Enable two factor authentication
Two-factor authentication is essentially securing your devices and services with more than a guessable password — using “something you know”, like a password or code, and “something you have”, like a phone or code generator. Essentially, it negates much of the benefit of stealing or cracking password with a brute force attack — even if the password is stolen they can’t gain access without the “thing you have”. There are a whole bunch of online services now that offer two factor authentication, and some banks even give out devices to act as the “thing you have”.
Watch what apps you install
Despite the facade of safety you get within a phone’s ecosystem, an unfortunate number of apps store, steal or leak data. A recent study of more than a hundred iOs and Android apps revealed a majority of apps shared some information, like email and addresses and location, with third parties. But some apps were even worse, storing and sharing data like passwords and addresses in plain text. Before you install, use, or give any new apps sensitive information, ask yourself whether the convenience is really worth the risk.
Most every device nowadays comes with encryption included, you just need to turn it on. Apple Macs and most versions of Windows ship with encryption, you just need to dive into the settings. Encryption has been built into iPhones since iOs8, encrypting an Android phone may be a bit trickier, but it all starts with heading into settings.
But none of these tips will work if you are careless with your gear. This is more of a mindset thing, as you need to adopt an almost-paranoid attitude to the whereabouts and safety of your devices — we’ve already seen hackers making and distributing fake chargers capable of hacking a smartphone in less than a minute, after all. So, always be on a alert. Don’t let devices out of your sight, and don’t trust thumb drives or chargers that you find lying around.