There are mobile devices everywhere in America. Nearly two-thirds of us own a smartphone or tablet and our children probably know how to manipulate these devices better than a laptop or desktop computer. With all that transfer of information at our fingertips, just think about how much personal information and sensitive data--like banking information--is on your smartphone or tablet?

Thanks to this new ease of access, the internet is now available wherever we go. Hackers know this and they are increasing their attacks on users of smartphones and tablets. Blakely Thomas-Aguilar of VMWare® AirWatch® (a mobile device management software provider) has compiled some data from industry reports as of October 2015 that has some interesting statistics (23 Disturbing Statistics about Mobile Security.) One of these statistics being that there was a 75% year-over-year increase in U.S. mobile device-related malware in 2014.

What can you do to protect yourself from this oncoming wave? There are a number of “quick” things that you can do.

  • Set a passcode, PIN, or fingerprint to restrict access to your device;
  • Turn on the setting to restrict software downloads from anywhere but the sanctioned device store (e.g. Windows Store®, Apple Store®, Google Play®), then make sure to download only applications (apps) from reputable developers in those stores. It would be helpful in this case to restrict the download and installation of these apps using a password, PIN or fingerprint;
  • Don’t connect to unsecured Wi-Fi. To avoid public Wi-Fi pitfalls, pay particular attention to the name of the Wi-Fi that you are accessing. For instance, if you are staying in a hotel, ensure that the network you are connecting to is the “official” Wi-Fi. Ask an employee to confirm the Wi-Fi ID. Ensure that it requires a password and that it uses WPA2 security to access it. If you are still suspicious of the Wi-Fi, don’t perform sensitive transactions on that connection, such as mobile banking. If needed use a virtual private network (VPN) or your cell phone's data connection;
  • Disable services such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth®, data, and location when not in use;
  • Encrypt the device;
  • When an update is available and stable for your device, update your operating system; and,
  • Use an anti-virus app from a reputable source.

These are just a few tips. Here are some other sources that have some good ideas, too:


Robert Beckstead is the Information Technology Security Officer at Bank of Utah. He comes to the Bank with experience managing information and IT security programs at various federal agencies. In addition to multiple professional certifications, he has an MBA with an emphasis in Information Assurance from Idaho State University.