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5 Easy Ways to Protect Your Smartphone from Cyber Attack

It's time to start worrying about smartphone security.

Your smartphone is full of personal and professional information that cyber crooks would love to get their hands on. Mobile banking and other phone-based financial services are becoming increasingly popular – 39 percent of smartphone users use mobile banking, according to 2015 study done by the Federal Reserve.

Yet most smartphones are completely unprotected, and most people use them with less security savvy than they would a desktop computer, according to this article from CNN Money.

In years past, tech experts have disagreed on how great the threat to smartphone security really is. But as the devices become more ubiquitous, the growing consensus is that people need to take greater steps to protect their information.

Know the threats

Smartphones are vulnerable to the same virus, spyware and phishing threats as your home computer. There are also some unique risks that can affect mobile devices.

Downloaded apps are the easiest way for hackers to compromise your phone’s security. Only download apps from dedicated app stores – iTunes, Amazon and the Android Market – and avoid “jailbreaking” your device, which can quickly open your phone up to malware and voids your warranty if a virus does occur.

How to protect yourself

Have a decent password and use encryption. Smartphones are physically easier to steal (or lose) than a desktop or laptop computer. Keep your information locked up tight by making use of security options most phones already offer. If your phone is missing, it's a good idea to disable your account by contacting your service provider.

Make sure you're running the latest version of your phone’s operating system and any apps you might have. Developers of both are constantly working to find and remove bugs or other “holes” that could make your device more vulnerable.

Be a smart "surfer." When using the Internet on your phone, preference secure "https" sites. Don't use public Wi-Fi networks when conducting any business that involves finances or other personal information, including login and password information. Turn off WiFi and Bluetooth when you’re not using them.

Download with caution. While apps from Amazon and the iTunes store are relatively safe, the Android Market is rife with malware, and unknown third-party sites can be technological torture. That's because its devices are most common and its development platform is the most open. No matter what device you have, it's a good idea to read reviews of each app you plan to download and pay attention to the permissions it asks for.

Consider security software. In the next 12 to 18 months it will probably be necessary to install malware protection, especially if you make any kind of financial transactions via your smartphone. Security software will detect and remove viruses, and let you remotely lock or delete data if you lose track of your device. Here are some other features to look for if you decide to purchase the software.