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Keeping your smartphones (and tablets) safe

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Mobile technology is now an essential part of life in many organisations. We store increasing amounts of data on tablets and smartphones.

What's more, these devices are now as powerful as traditional computers. They need enhanced protection because they often leave the safety of the office or home.

Here are five quick tips that can help keep your mobile devices secure. These tips apply to your own personal device, a device provided by your organisation, and the information stored on them.

Switch on password protection

Use a complex PIN or password. This will prevent the average criminal from accessing your phone or tablet.

Many devices now include fingerprint recognition to lock your device without a password. This is a good, strong alternative that you can be confident to use. You will need to check if these features are on when you first receive your device(s). They're not always enabled straightaway.

Get more advice on using passwords to protect your data.

Make sure you can track, lock or wipe lost or stolen devices

Trustees, staff and volunteers are more likely to have their devices stolen (or lose them) while out of the office or their home. The majority of devices include free tools that are invaluable should you lose your device. They can help you to:

  • track the location of a device
  • remotely lock access to the device (to prevent anyone else using it)
  • remotely erase the data stored on the device
  • retrieve a backup of data stored on the device.

Make sure you sign up to these and turn them on.

Keep your devices up to date

No matter what phones or tablets your charity is using, it's important to keep them up to date at all times. All manufacturers release regular updates that keep the device protected. This process is quick, easy, and free.

Devices should be set to automatically update where possible. Ensure your trustees, staff and volunteers know how important these updates are, and explain how to do it if they need help.

At some point, manufacturers will stop supporting older devices. When this happens, you should consider replacing them with a newer model or version.

Keep your apps up to date

Make sure you're updating all apps regularly. These updates will not only add new features, but will also fix any new security issues. Make sure trustees, staff and volunteers know:

  • when updates are ready for apps
  • how to install updates
  • and that it's important to do so straight away.

Don't connect to unknown Wi-Fi hotspots

When you're out and need to connect to the internet, don’t use unknown Wi-Fi. When you use public Wi-Fi hotspots there's no easy way to find out who controls the hotspot, or to be assured it’s secure. If you do connect to these hotspots, somebody else could access:

  • what you're working on while connected
  • your private login details that many apps and web service while out of the office or home.

There are many safer ways you can connect to the internet while out of the office or home.

  • Use a mobile 3G or 4G mobile network from your phone. These have built-in security.
  • Use your mobile as a Wi-Fi hotspot. This means that other devices such as laptops share the 3G/4G connection from your phone. Protect your mobile hotspot with a password so no-one else can use it.
  • Use a wireless 'dongle' provided by a mobile network. This is a pocket-size device that connects to your devices and allows you to access the internet while you're traveling.

For even higher security you can also use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). This is a technique that encrypts your data for certain parts of its journey. For most people you will want something called a third party VPN. Many companies offer these, you need to get one from someone reliable.

Good choices include:

  • antivirus software providers that you already use and trust
  • some web browsers which have VPNs you can turn on or off.

Staff and volunteers can secure remote access to centralised physical office systems. You can safely share information with them through a VPN. You can also use it to protect staff on the internet.

These methods do have a cost to them. Do your staff have access to other people’s data on their devices? You must make sure they have access to one of these methods so they don’t need to use public Wi-Fi. This is true even if they only intend to access that data in the office or at home. You must not expose it to the risk of public Wi-Fi.

That’s not the case if your staff and volunteers don’t have access to such data. Then, it may be reasonable to weigh the risks of public Wi-Fi against the cost of another way of connecting.

Find out more

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 02 March 2021

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