Smartphones have undoubtedly improved the way we manage our personal information, access the Internet, and communicate with others. Unfortunately, it has also provided hackers with a wealth of devices full to the brim with passwords, payment information, and other sensitive materials.

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to protect yourself from the threat of being hacked.

Use Unique Passwords

First and foremost, be sure your phone (as well as email, online banking accounts, social media accounts, etc.) are protected with a unique password that is difficult for others to guess.

There are several methods to accomplish this. First, don’t include personal information in your password such as a portion of your birthday, a loved one’s name or birthday, a pet’s name, etc. Alternatively, there are random password generators available online that provide unique passwords combining upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters.

Moreover, several smartphone models are equipped with a built-in security feature that requires the user to enter a four number pin before the home screen can be accessed. If possible, be sure to set up your phone to require a password after five minutes of inactivity. However, owners of smartphones that lack this feature can download a third-party security application and install it on their smartphone.

Know What’s Going On Your Phone!

However, it is important to exercise caution when downloading applications.

While mainstream application stores often screen applications for viruses and other insecurities before posting them for general consumption, only download applications from trustworthy vendors. Be sure to read reviews from other consumers. Typing the vendor’s name into a search engine can also provide useful information if more research is needed before you download the application.

Stay Away from Sensitive Information on Public WiFi

Of course, downloading applications and utilizing the full potential of your smartphone is not possible without Internet access.

wi-fi garbage

Image by Yuba College Public Space via Flickr

We typically don’t hesitate to connect to public wi-fi at the local coffee shop, but it is important to keep the following in mind when using the Internet, particularly public wi-fi. It is wise to only enable wireless networks that you use. Don’t connect to wi-fi sources that don’t require a password unless the source is trustworthy. Furthermore, unless it is absolutely necessary, avoid accessing sensitive information over public wi-fi sources.

On a related note, be sure to keep your bluetooth off when it is not in use so as to prevent others from connecting to your smartphone.

Use Mobile Security Software

Mobile device management software is another popular option to protecting your smartphone from hackers.

This software operates over-the-air (e.g., via wireless Internet) to provide software which secures and monitors the smartphone. Typical features of this software includes firmware updates, troubleshooting diagnostics, remote lock and information wipe, software installation to name a few. Open source anti-theft software is also available, for free, and supports a number of smartphone operating systems.

Lookout mobile phone security, preyproject and NetQin are a few examples of top-tier mobile security software programs availab.le

Update Your Mobile OS

Finally, be sure to frequently check your smartphone for software updates.

English: Windows Phone 7 powered LG Panther(GW...

Image via Wikipedia

Do not delay installation as updates typically include firmware improvements that are intended to keep your smartphone safe from hackers. Also, back up the data on your smartphone to ensure you don’t lose important information should your smartphone be compromised.

For even more information on smartphone security and to see some of the above tips in infographic format, check out Veracode’s Android vs. iOS graphic.