Summertime finds us traveling for vacation and visiting a lot of public parks and events, and in these modern times, our mobile smart phones tag along with us.  Berkley Fin Secure, who provides insurance solutions for financial institutions, recently sent us a series of emails with great information about keeping your mobile device secure.  We decided to summarize these tips and share them with you.

Perhaps the most overlooked way criminals steal personal information is by simply eavesdropping on your conversations.  Make a call or video chat with your speaker phone and everyone around you can hear both ends of the conversation, and if there happens to be personal or sensitive work information on a video chat, for instance on a white board in the background, it is easily accessible to someone looking over your shoulder.  Use ear buds instead of your speaker and be aware of people who might be around you when you are talking about something sensitive.

A GPS location service is a great tool.  Navigation apps use it to give you directions while you travel, you can instantly find the weather forecast for your exact location, and you can find recommendations for nearby restaurants or tourist attractions with the tap of your finger. This service also presents great security risks because, as Berkley Fin Secure puts it, “GPS tracks where you are…and aren’t.”  Turn off location services when in not in use, to avoid automatic check-ins and tagging of photos.  The fewer people who know you are hundreds of miles away from your home, the better.

Be careful of Wi-Fi connections.  Public connections are not secure and your data can easily be accessed by a savvy user of the same network.  Don’t log in and check your bank account balance on a public Wi-Fi connection.  Also know for sure which connection you are signing up for.  There are many rogue connections that will copy the name of a legitimate connection in hopes that you will mistakenly sign on to it instead.  When at a hotel, verify the exact name of the connection with the hotel staff. Turn off your Wi-Fi when you don’t need it and especially don’t allow it to automatically connect to networks.

When your battery is on 3% and you see a USB charging station, it may feel like an oasis in the desert, but you are putting your information at risk if you plug in.  The station will charge your phone, but it can also download all of the information on your phone, in a technique the experts call “juice-jacking.” A much safer bet is to use your outlet power charger, if you can find an outlet.  If you feel you must use a USB station, there might be some security in completely powering down your phone before you plug in, but it is not guaranteed.

Finally, remember to perform all of the available system updates on your phone before you travel. Phones are mini computers and susceptible to viruses and spyware just like laptops, so be sure that you are protected with the latest anti-virus software.

Being aware of these tips can help you enjoy the convenience of having a smart phone during your summer fun, to post photos for your family and friends to see and to make your travel process easier, without compromising your important information. Have fun this summer!