Chris Lewis

Oct 02 2019

4 Ways to Keep Your Smartphone Secure


Whether you have an iOS or Android device, recent news underscores the importance of securing your device as much as possible – researchers have found that cyberattacks targeting smartphones and other mobile devices have risen by 50% this year.

This alarming trend is likely due in part to the popularity of financial apps among smartphone users. Once installed into a device, malicious software can steal log-in IDs, passwords, and other sensitive information from these apps – exposing users to fraud, theft, and other financial harm.

At Hills Bank, we take the threat of cyberattacks seriously, and want to help you protect yourself. Though the particular ways to safeguard your device may vary, below are some best practices and additional resources for smartphones of all types.

Update Software Regularly

Keep operating system and apps up to date to prevent performance issues and protect your device from being compromised due to security flaws. Turning on automatic updates is a simple way to ensure your device stays current.

Be Selective When Downloading Apps

It’s best to only download apps from the App Store or Google Play store (or another official store from your smartphone’s software provider). When selecting an app to download, look for apps developed by reputable companies that have been downloaded and reviewed by a large number of other people.

Another tip: use your favorite search engine to check the name of the app with the phrases “legitimate” and “data breach.” Typically, others will report apps that show suspicious activity or have had security issues, which you’ll see in your search.

Review App Permissions and Only Allow the Rights Needed

By only approving access to the parts of your phone that are necessary, you can limit the damage a compromised app can do to your device or the information it could glean about you. Ask yourself: does it make sense for an app to ask for the permissions it does? And once you’ve answered that question, trust your instincts. It’s better to be safe (by not installing an app) than to be sorry (that your phone was compromised)!

Here are a few examples of potentially dangerous permissions for an app to have:

  • Camera: An app could turn on your camera and record without your permission, capturing sensitive or personal information
  • Contacts: Your contacts could be targeted with spam or phishing attempts
  • Location: In extreme cases, this could let thieves know when you’re away from home
  • Microphone: Like camera access, an app with this permission could use your microphone to record without your knowledge
  • Phone/SMS: Shady apps could make texts or even calls to perform fraud or send spam messages
  • Storage: The app can delete or modify data from your phone’s storage

Of course, many legitimate apps will also need some of the permissions above in order to function as intended. That’s why it’s important to research apps before you install them to better understand what permissions they actually need, versus ones which could be used to cause harm.

Be Aware of Changes in Your Phone’s Performance

As phones age, their performance can degrade over time as newer apps require more processing power. However, if your phone suddenly becomes slower or sluggish in opening apps or performing tasks, it could be a sign of malicious software such as viruses. You should use your device’s built-in performance monitor to check for any anomalies, or download an anti-malware app to perform a virus scan.

These four tips will help you keep your device secure. But there are additional steps you can take for even greater protection. If you have an Android device, consider installing an anti-malware app from a trusted company (e.g. Norton or AVG). Many anti-malware companies offer free versions of their apps that provide basic protection. These apps can also scan for viruses, giving you another tool to use to secure your phone – and if you have the Hills Bank mobile app, to also secure your finances.

Chris Lewis

About Chris Lewis

Chris Lewis is an Information Security Officer at Hills Bank. He joined Hills Bank in 2013 and has over 10 years banking experience. He specializes in Cybersecurity, Fraud & Identify Theft Prevention, and mobile device security. Chris can be reached at

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