Secure your mobile phone and devices

The features that make your phone 'smart' also make it susceptible to viruses and malicious software. If your phone isn't secure and it is lost or stolen, your personal information, including passwords, banking details, emails and photos could be used to access your money or to steal your identity.

Mobile phones, especially smart phones are mobile computers. They allow you to access the internet and email, download applications and games and store personal contacts, photos and information. You need to protect and secure your phone just as you would your home or mobile computer.

 

Top tips

  • Put a password on your phone and a PIN on your SIM card. Do not rely on the default factory settings. Using a password and PIN will stop thieves getting access to your phone or using the SIM in another phone to make calls. All phones have security settings so familiarise yourself with them and turn them on.
  • Setup your device to automatically lock. If your phone has not been used for a few minutes, it should automatically lock and require a password or PIN to reactivate.
  • Encrypt your data. Some phones allow you to encrypt your data, sometimes using third-party software. Encryption secures your data if your phone is lost or stolen.
  • Consider installing security software from a reputable provider. Anti-virus, anti-theft, anti-malware and firewall software is available for some mobile phone operating systems.
  • Stay with reputable websites and mobile applications (apps). Always keep an eye on your commonly used websites' addresses and make sure you are not redirected or diverted to other websites. When using any financial mobile applications, such as mobile banking, make sure to only use applications supplied by your financial institution.
  • Be careful when allowing third party unsigned applications to access your personal information. This includes access to your location. Always read permission requests before installing new apps or app upgrades, looking for unusual requests or pleas for money.
  • Do not click on unsolicited or unexpected links. Even when they appear to be from friends.
  • Check your phone bill for unusual data charges or premium rate calls. Contact your service provider immediately if you discover any unusual calls or data usage on your bill.
  • Check for updates to your phone's operating system regularly. Install them as soon as they are available.
  • Be smart with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. When connecting to the internet using Wi-Fi, try to use an encrypted network that requires a password. Avoid online banking or financial transactions in busy public areas and over unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Ensure that passers-by can't watch what you are typing (known as shoulder-surfing). Turn Bluetooth off when you aren't using it.
  • Back up your data regularly. Set up your phone so that it backs up your data when you sync it, or back it up to a separate memory card.
  • If you decide to recycle your phone, make sure you delete all your personal information first. Most phones have an option to reset to factory settings. Remember to remove or wipe any inserted memory cards.
  • To assist you in case of your mobile theft or loss, ask your provider or manufacturer whether it has services such as mobile tracking and the ability to remotely wipe your information stored on the phone.

On this page

  • Remember it's not 'just a phone'
  • Secure your phone
  • Secure your information
  • Stay with reputable websites and mobile applications (apps)
  • Plan ahead
  • Be smart about how and where you use your phone
  • Protect against malicious software
  • Symptoms of malicious software infection

Fact sheets and resources

acma_websiteThe Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has developed a number of factsheets on Phone safety, privacy and security including a Mobile phone security factsheet.


OPC_WebsiteThe Office of the Privacy Commissioner has useful resources on privacy and security of your mobile phone.

Remember it's not 'just a phone'

  • Treat your smart phone like your wallet - keep it safe and on your person at all times.
  • Remember your smart phone is a computer - all the same security rules apply. This includes checking the authenticity of websites, not clicking on links from people you do not know, and watching out for phishing scams (by email, text or even voicemail) asking for personal information.

Secure your phone

  • Turn on the security features of your phone. All phones have security settings, so familiarise yourself with them and turn them on.
  • Many mobile phones allow users to set a password or Personal Identification Number (PIN) that must be entered to use the phone. Passwords and PINs make it more difficult for thieves to steal your personal information if your phone is lost or stolen.  
  • Put a PIN on your SIM card and password on your phone so that thieves cannot steal your phone credit or run up your phone bill.
  • Consider installing security software from a reputable provider. Anti-virus, anti-theft, anti-malware and firewall software is available for some mobile phone operating systems. Check with your phone manufacturer for recommendations.
  • Check for updates to your phones operating system regularly. Install them as soon as they are available - these updates often contain changes that will make your phone more secure.
  • Bluetooth lets you wirelessly connect to devices and transfer information over short distances. For Bluetooth to work, devices need to see each other and then connect. It is best to leave your phone in undiscoverable mode (hidden) so that it is only visible when you specifically need other people or devices to see it. This means that hackers cannot easily see your phone and they cannot easily connect to it unless they already have your Bluetooth address. When connecting using Bluetooth, do so in private, uncrowded areas only.
  • Be smart with Wi-Fi. When connecting to the internet using Wi-Fi, try to use an encrypted network that requires a password and which you are sure is operated by a reputable provider. Read our tips for using public wireless networks.
  • Change your settings so that your phone asks permission to join a new wireless network.

Secure your information

  • Encrypt your data. Some phones allow you to encrypt the data stored on your phone or memory cards, sometimes through the use of third-party encryption products. Encryption secures your data if your phone is lost or stolen.
  • Back up your data regularly. Set up your phone so that it backs up all your data each time you synchronise with a computer. Alternatively, backup your device to a memory card regularly and keep it in a safe place.
  • Do not save passwords or PINs as contacts on your phone unless you encrypt them properly. With all the PINs and passwords we have to remember, it is tempting to save them in your phone as fake contacts in case you forget them, but this can lead to a compromise if you lose your phone or the data in it is stolen.
  • Avoid online banking in busy public areas. Passers-by could be watching what you are typing (known as shoulder-surfing).

Stay with reputable websites and mobile applications (apps)

  • If your phone allows you to run applications downloaded from the internet, make sure you understand the risks that your personal information including your location, contacts and messages can be breached if the permissions for mobile application are not setup properly.
  • Most smart phones allow you to control your personal information accessed by the mobile applications by choosing permissions at the time of installation.
  • Do not get led into the trap of downloading hoax or malicious software that could contain a virus or malware.
  • Think carefully about what information you and your phone shares online and how it could be misused. Your smart phone holds a great deal of personal information in a single place, making the job of fraudsters very easy. So it's not just about what you put on your social networking profile, but also that it's probably easy to work out who you bank with, where you've recently made transactions, the names of your family and to glean other details from emails or other documents.

Plan ahead

  • Note down the details of your phone in case of theft. Every phone and cellular capable tablet has a unique  International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI). Most phones allow you to find out your own by keying in  *#06#. Knowing this number will help your network provider to stop your phone being used if it is stolen.
  • If you lose your phone or it is stolen, report it to your network operator immediately so it can be disabled. If you find it again you can easily re-enable the phone.
  • To assist you in case of mobile theft or loss, ask your provider or manufacturer whether it has services such as mobile tracking and the ability to remotely wipe your information stored on the phone.

Be smart about how and where you use your phone

  • Turn Bluetooth off when you aren't using it. Bluetooth lets you wirelessly connect to devices and transfer information over short distances. For Bluetooth to work, devices need to see each other and then connect. It is best to leave bluetooth off until you are using it or put your phone in undiscoverable mode (hidden) so that it is only visible when you specifically need other people or devices to see it. This means that hackers cannot easily see your mobile phone and they cannot easily connect to it unless they already have your Bluetooth address. When connecting using Bluetooth, do so in private, uncrowded areas only.
  • Stick with reputable sites and applications when downloading applications from the Web. Many mobile phones include internet browsers that let you surf the web and download content to the phone. Do not download content , particularly applications, from unknown or unreliable sources. They could contain malicious software. Use the application store or website of your mobile phone operating system or manufacturer.
  • Turn GPS off when not using it. While GPS can provide great benefits in finding out where you need to go, it can also be used by others to see where you or your phone is located.
  • Log out of websites when you are finished. It can be tempting to stay logged into a website to save time or so the site can remember your password. It is best not to do this because if your phone is stolen or lost, a user can access your account.
  • Think before you click. Do not open multimedia messages (MMS) or attachments in emails, or click on links in emails and SMS messages unless you are expecting them and they are from a trusted source. They could contain malicious software or take you to a malicious website.
  • Change your settings so that your phone asks permission to join a new wireless network.

Protect against malicious software

  • Watch out for prompts or warnings asking if you want to allow software to install or run - if you do not know what it is or what it relates to, err on the side of caution. Criminals sometimes try to dupe users into downloading malicious software (often referred to as 'social engineering').

Symptoms of malicious software infection

Your phone may have been infected with malicious software if any of the following things have happened:

  • there is a sudden large increase in your phone bill with no clear reason
  • your phone has emails and messages in the sent folder that you did not send, or
  • the user interface has changed without you taking any action to change it.

Contact your service provider for instructions on how to identify and remove malicious software.

  • Link to the SSO RSS feed
  • Link to the SSO YouTube page
  • Link to the SSO Twitter page
  • Link to the SSO Facebook page
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  • Tip:

    Never send wire transfers to anyone you don’t know and trust.