Smartphones and the internet are undoubtedly a part of our personal and professional lives, with many of us keeping our most important information on our devices, making them the perfect target for cyberattacks. With the threat of scams and hacks on the rise, putting countless people at risk, knowing how to secure your data is more important than ever before, especially with online banking information unsurprisingly targeted by criminals.

In Singapore, you might have heard about people receiving fake SMS messages which state that their bank accounts have been suspended. After calling the phone number in the SMS, the scammer tries to convince the victim to hand over their NRIC and credit card details. You might think it sounds silly, but these types of scams trick thousands of people every year. As a matter of fact, latest reports show that from January to May of 2021, there were a total of 374 cases, accounting for a total of S$1.07 million in losses!

Therefore, you need to know how to safeguard your information from attacks, by spotting the signs before you get caught by any of these malicious activities. Read on to find out how you can avoid disaster.

Common Ways Phone Data is Stolen

Although scams and hacks become more complex by the day, the vast majority of people fall prey to some of the most simple ones such as the ‘Internet Love Scam’. Check out Scam Alert. Take the test to learn of some common tactics used by scammers in Singapore. Then, consider these tips to protect your phone’s data.

1. Public Wi-Fi vulnerabilities

If you happen to spot an open Wi-Fi network, think carefully about whether it’s safe to connect your device to it. You might not realise it, but it’s possible for a malicious user to be tracking the activity of everyone on the network. This means that they can hack into your phone and see your emails, banking information, and business credentials. One way to protect your phone from hackers if you do have to connect to public Wi-Fi broadband in Singapore is to use a VPN service to encrypt your data and hide your digital tracks.

2. Phishing attacks

Many people already know about phishing attacks, where a fake message is designed to trick you into revealing private information. These are usually associated with desktop computers. However, phishing attacks are becoming increasingly common on smartphones, with hackers using SMS or messages via services like WhatsApp to deceive people into handing over their passwords. Always be highly skeptical of messages that claim there’s a problem with your account and request private information.

3. Apps that turn malicious

When you download an app to your phone, there’s a good chance that there’s nothing wrong with it. But over time, these apps can be updated without your knowledge, potentially adding new permissions that might expose you to risk. There’s also the chance that the app is sold to someone who might turn the product into something nasty. This is why you should regularly check the apps on your phone for their permissions, plus read recent reviews to ensure other users haven’t highlighted any security concerns.

How to Protect Your Phone’s Data

Now that you’re aware of some common ways personal data is stolen from smartphones, the following tips can help protect your private information.

1. Keep your device updated

When updates to your phone’s operating system are rolled out, they usually include security patches that keep your device secure. While you might find this an annoying process as it might change how your smartphone looks or functions, these updates are critical to closing off security gaps that leave your data vulnerable. This is why you should always update as soon as you can.

2. Be mindful of the apps you use

When you install an app, it’s going to ask for a range of permissions. Although countless apps have a legitimate reason for needing to access your camera, documents, or microphone, you should always review these permissions to make sure nothing fishy stands out. Unfortunately, many users think that just because an app made it onto the Google Play Store or Apple App Store that it must be safe to use. However, there’s been dozens of examples where harmful apps have remained in these stores for weeks or months. Check out this discovery of 24 dangerous apps on the Google Play Store just last year. With 382 million installs in total by unaware victims, precautionary measures such as running through these apps on Google Play Protect will ensure that any harmful apps are automatically uninstalled from your device.

3. Secure important files

If you’re the victim of a malicious attack, it’s still possible to secure your personal documents in password-protected vaults. For example, Samsung phones feature Secure Folders, which allows users to safely store specific documents and apps. OnePlus phones have a similar feature known as Lockbox, while iPhone users can download additional apps such as Cryptomator and Boxcryptor.