person holding cell phone in both hands leaning about cybersecurity

Cybersecurity: How to Keep Financial Information Secure on Your Cell Phone

With great convenience comes great vulnerability. If you depend on payment apps, managing investments, banking and moving money using your cell phone, you aren’t alone. Cell phones offer a quick and convenient way to manage your money – but they also leave you vulnerable to cybersecurity threats.

To keep your personal information secure, it’s important to stay vigilant and updated. We’ve compiled some of our top tips and tricks to get you started – let’s dive in.

9 Ways to Improve Your Phone’s Cybersecurity and Protect Your Financial Information

Here are 9 tips for how you can improve the security of your smartphone and other mobile devices:

1. Accept responsibility for improving your phone’s security

Don’t depend on vendors or apps to protect you. Many people are not aware that a phone’s personal and financial information can be mined from emails, texts, downloaded documents and even contact lists.

Data breaches are occurring more and more frequently. They can come from a computer virus (yes, your smartphone is a computer), a company you do business with or someone that snoops directly on your phone transmissions.

Make it a mission to practice better cybersecurity and to stay informed. The Identity Theft Resource Center has some great information to get you started.

2. Create better passwords!

Great digital security begins with better passwords. Did you know that the average hacker can crack an 8-digit password in a matter of hours?

Make your passwords stronger by creating longer strings of characters. Don’t use the usual, easy to decode passwords (like pets and kids’ names or birth dates). And especially don’t use the same password for multiple sites. Hackers and thieves LOVE that.

The inconvenience of creating longer passwords may seem challenging, but imagine how much more challenging it will be to dig out from under identity theft!

Here’s a useful tip: start with a phrase you’ll remember that isn’t very common. This will be your core password phrase. Then vary the phrase by changing the first two letters to match the letters of the website you’re using and then add letters for the season of the year.

For instance, “The dude abides” (from the Big Lebowski) would look like ciThe$Dude$Abides$SU2017. The two letters ci at the beginning of the phrase represents the vendor or bank, CitiBank.

Then, changing your password every season should be a no brainer – just substitute the SU for FA in the fall. Ask any IT person – passwords over 20 characters are almost impossible to decode.

3. Avoid public Wi-Fi

Be wary of any networks that don’t require a password. Cafes, planes, buses and even hotels that require a room number for access have notoriously weak security.

If you must use the internet in a public place, avoid going to any sites or apps that store personal or financial information hackers could use against you.

4. Embrace Virtual Private Networks

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) create a safer network using encryption and other tech tricks that make it harder for hackers to intercept your data.

Although it sounds fancy, getting a VPN is actually easy. Research first and sign up for a reputable service. To get started, you’ll to download the app and pay a small monthly fee.

5. Avoid public charging stations

You see them at airports and convention sites. The USB or Apple Lightning connector that plugs into your phone isn’t just a charging cable. It can be a two-way conduit for data.

Instead, bring your own charging cable. Also, consider purchasing an external battery pack and use that when you’re on the go.

6. Keep your software updated

Software updates almost always fix security flaws, so keep your phone’s system and apps updated.

It’s easy to click that “Remind me later” button, but in reality it only takes a few minutes to update your cell phone for better security.

7. Use Two-Step Authentication

Two-step authentication is getting more ubiquitous. It adds an extra step when you log into banks or brokerage accounts – and it’s totally worth it.

A thief or hacker would need to access both your password and phone to get the code that is texted or emailed to you from your financial institution to be able to access your account(s). It’s free, only takes a few seconds and adds a great extra layer of protection.

8. Sign up for account activity notifications

Ask any identity theft victim and they will tell you they won’t ever do without this little alert feature.

More and more, banks and financial institutions have systems in place to send you texts, emails or phone calls about unusual activity on your accounts. You’ll have to be proactive to sign up for some of these notifications, but they’re free. You’ll also want to keep your contact information updated with those institutions so they can reach you if needed.

9. Be phish-proof

You’ve heard and seen them: Texts or emails from legitimate-looking companies that hope you follow their links and reveal confidential information about yourself. The elderly are particularly susceptible to these scams.

If you get an email or text that notifies you of problems with your account or other matter, don’t follow the links – simply go to the source. That source is the official website of your institution.

Better still, give them a call using the phone number on your credit card or statement. Phishing scams are getting very sophisticated and many texts and emails can be mistaken for the real thing, so be over cautious. Unfortunately, legislation doesn’t require businesses and institutions to notify consumers of data breaches in a timely manner.

As financial planning moves toward a more digital world, it’s crucial to keep you cell phone’s cybersecurity top of mind.

Seek Security with Clarity

Want to explore more options for securing your future? Click here to connect with Clarity Financial Wealth today – we’re happy to help!