The definitive guide to protect the mobile from alien eyes | Your Technology | The country | The USA Print

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A user checks her mobile phone.
A user checks her mobile phone.UNSPLASH

The events surrounding the Pegasus spyware have cast doubt on the privacy of data on mobile phones. Although this program is aimed at government officials and relevant figures from the world of politics and business, this software has shown that there is no invulnerable device; neither, those of ordinary citizens. Protecting, above all, the mobile phone is essential, since it can be the vector of attack towards the user’s most private and sensitive information. “On the mobile we have much more private data than on a computer,” explains Fernando Suárez Lorenzo, president of the General Council of Professional Colleges in Computer Engineering, who specifies: “WhatsApp conversations, private photographs, access to bank accounts… That is why it is crucial to protect it as much as possible.”

How can it be achieved? This series of tips that is included is within the reach of any user and everyone should apply them to shield access to the most valuable information as much as possible.

Always keep the software up to date

A couple of years ago, this advice might seem like an afterthought, but the ever-increasing and effervescent activity of cybercriminals is forcing platforms to keep up a relentless battle. After each revealed vulnerability, there is always a security patch that is urgently distributed among devices, both iOS and Android. And it is urgent to install it as soon as possible (do not heed the advice of those who urge you to ‘wait a few days’ under the false suspicion that the update has not been tested).

Instant screen lock

All mobile phones have an automatic screen lock system, more aimed at reducing battery consumption than security. This auto-off is very comfortable, since, once the mobile has been used, one can relax and, for convenience, let it lock itself. However, those ten or fifteen seconds that the mobile remains unlocked may be enough time for it to fall into the hands of others (or for the information on the screen to be seen). It can happen, on the other hand, that the application that is in use keeps the screen active (like the GPS navigator or YouTube…). In this sense, it is enough to get into the habit of locking the device manually.

Use biometrics or, where appropriate, a long password

Protecting the mobile with the same PIN that is used in the bank teller can be as tempting as it is dangerous. Anyone who observes how the digits are entered (if there are four, they can easily memorize them), could steal the mobile in an oversight, or even the wallet, assuming that the PIN is shared with the credit cards. The best option is to use biometrics, facial or fingerprint recognition, which is increasingly present in mobile devices. If the phone does not have a system of these characteristics, it is best to use a long password, of no less than six characters, and the more complex, the better. In any case, biometrics has more and more followers and is “the preferred authentication method for 38% of users,” explains Simon Marchand, from Nuance, a company focused on conversational artificial intelligence.

Never open an attachment or hyperlink received by email or SMS

The phishing, technique that consists of supplanting the identity of an organization or a person with the aim of deceiving the victim, is only growing. Cybercriminals using this strategy can send an attachment or link via email or SMS messages, accurately emulating the organization.Yosupplanted. On many occasions, they ask for a username and password or invite the victim to click on what is attached. If she falls into the trap, the damage will already be done and the consequences can be very serious. The main protection barrier against these attacks is as simple as it is effective: never click on a hyperlink or open an attachment that arrives by email, WhatsApp or SMS. This type of attack is so widespread that the majority of companies have chosen never to communicate with their clients by sending documents or web pages through these channels or to demand personal data through them. If, despite everything, you can’t with curiosity and want to know the content of a message, it is essential to contact the sender by another means (never through the one used to send the message), reporting this communication and requesting that its authenticity be certified.

Use a password manager

Passwords are the expensive toll that must be paid for peace of mind; a complex balance between comfort and safety. If they are simple and are recycled in several services, they will be comfortable to use, but also risky, since, if one of those services is compromised in an attack, our password can end up in the dark web and it will be a matter of time before it ends up in another unwanted place. Discarding, as reckless, repeating the passwords in different services, the ideal is to use a specific one (and one that is complex), for each one of the services. How to remember an unintelligible sequence of letters, numbers and symbols for each platform or service? This is where password managers come into play, services that suggest sequences, store them, and let the user through safely. Third-party applications can be used, such as 1Password either last passamong others, but some operating systems already integrate this service natively, as is the case with Apple and Microsoft or the Google browser.

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