Image file photo. (REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files)
The smartphone has become one of the most important instruments in millions of Americans lives. It tracks your movements, gives to e-mails and sms messages, and alerts you for every birthday and appointment. Every second, information floods your smartphone. Unless you disable them, your apps will work around-the-clock, obeying your setting and preference.
Your phone churns personal data by the circuits, the whole day long, and if criminals break in, they can steal all kinds of things, from bank account details to compromising photos and videos. And they do not actually have to steal your phone. They can’t even in your country.
How do they do it? Spyware.
What is spyware?
Spyware is a type of a computer virus, but instead of messing up your hard drive, you can strangers to snoop on you. Experienced hackers can install spyware on your phone without you even realizing it.
Click here to learn how to place five spyware apps watching and listening to you at this time.
Once the spyware is on your phone, it can record everything you do, from sending text messages to the shooting video of your family reunion. Hackers can use to break into your own accounts, command your e-mail and even blackmail.
Keep in mind, “spyware” is a vague and multifaceted term. It is not always malicious. Some parents install some kind of spyware on their kids’ smartphones to keep track of their activities. Managers sometimes keep tabs on their employees by watching what they do on their company computers. I don’t subscribe to this — I think there are much healthier ways of looking at children and employees, but this form of spyware is not intended to ruin your life.
Do not click on strange links
The simplest way to prevent the downloading of spyware is this: don’t click on strange links. If you receive an e-mail from a suspicious stranger, don’t open it. If you receive an e-mail or sms from someone you do know, but the message seems odd, contact your friend by phone or social media to see if the message was intended.
This may sound obvious, but sometimes our curiosity gets the best of us. When a link is displayed, some of us are struggling to avoid clicking, just because we want to know where this is leading. Other times, an authentic e-mail is actually a phishing scam in disguise. If you are the least bit doubtful, not on.
Lock your phone
Although some phones are more susceptible to spyware than others (more on this later), owners can dramatically reduce their risk of infection by blocking them. A simple PIN number will deter most hackers.
Also, avoid lending your phone to strangers. Yes, some people honestly forget their chargers at home and urgently to call their spouses, but a smart crook you need to unlocked phone for just a minute to cause a lot of damage. In this case, a Good Samaritan is risky business.
Androids and spyware
The bad news is this: Android phones are particularly vulnerable to spyware. It is simple to install a spying app on an Android gadget, but only once you get past the lock screen.
To protect yourself, make sure that you have the screen lock is enabled and that nobody knows your PIN, password or pattern. You can make it even harder by blocking the installation of third-party applications. To do this, go to Settings >> Security and check the option Unknown Sources. It will not stop a really knowledgeable snoop, but it could stump less savvy ones.
iPhones and spyware
Apple users can be very flattering of their products. If you are in possession of an iPhone, you probably already know that your phone is much safer from malware than Android gadgets. A recent “Forbes” study showed that nearly 97 percent of all known malware threats affect only Android devices.
That is good news for Apple addicts, but it can also make them overconfident.
Last August, Apple had to release for a critical iOS update to patch a security threat. For the update, could allow an attacker to take complete control of an iPhone remotely by clicking on the appropriate link.
The spyware was called Pegasus and the type of the attack was the so-called Trident. The latest iOS was also intended to prevent these exploits from damaging your iPhone. This is one reason why you should keep your iPhone up-to-date.
To get the latest version of iOS, go to Settings >> General >> Software Update. Your device will then verify that you have the latest version of the Apple iPhone and iPad operating system.
At the moment, Windows Phone 8 and Windows Mobile 10 seem to be fairly well protected against the mainstream of spyware apps. Do not rest on your laurels, though; an open Windows phone is still inviting disaster.
Beware of second-hand smartphones. Sometimes they are useful, because jailbroken phones are cheap and available and can work with many service providers. But they may also come with spyware installed.
Buying a second-hand phone is a common practice, especially if you’re traveling in another country, or you are between contracts, and need something just for the short term.
If you have suspicions about your phone, your best tactic is to restore the factory default settings. It is difficult, but it can save you a lot of grief along the line.
How about your headset? They listen also? What about the billboards? Click here to three things that could be spying on you right now.
What questions do you have? Call my national radio show. Click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. Of the buy of an opinion to the digital world problems, click here for my free podcasts.
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Learn about the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and provides advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.