Mobile phones are both a pain and a blessing. Though we have another incredibly powerful device in our hands, it can’t always protect itself from viruses, malware and scam calls. We have to be the ones doing everything. Sigh. So much for technology. Especially in today’s context, ahem TraceTogether ahem, there’s tons of private information on your mobile phone. What we used to carry around for simple communication is now akin to a safe, easier to break into than ever before. So what exactly should we be doing to keep our phones secure? If you prefer to watch a video about this topic instead, here's one we've done (watch till the end to ensure that your phone is safe!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?vzJgEX9CUw3Q Check For Viruses As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. It’s always good to be on the lookout for signs that show that your phone has been affected. One way to do this is to check whether your phone is facing performance issues as viruses may affect the functionality of your phone. Though the issues may seem like a normal symptom of wear on the device, it could be the result of something more malicious, hidden in the depths of your system. But it’s easy to weed out certain viruses. All you need to do is to check for apps that have been downloaded without your knowledge or excessive spam texts with dangerous links and attachments. Other effects of the virus might cause a surge in data usage, phone bill charges, a drain in battery and overheating. Oftentimes, these problems are a tell-tale sign that viruses are running in the background of your phone! Removing the Virus From Android & iPhone Once you’ve noticed that there is a virus in your phone, the next step would be to remove it. For Android users, you should get your phone into Safe Mode. Safe Mode stops all third-party apps from running and helps you figure out if the malicious app is the issue. Here’s how you do it: \tHold the power button till the menu appears \tTap and hold Power Off \tWhen the Reboot to Safe Mode prompt appears, tap again or tap OK Then, you can go into your apps list to try and identify the suspicious app, and uninstall it. You can restart your phone after all this is done. For iPhone users, the secure operating system makes it easier to rid your phone of the virus. You could try clearing your browsing data and history or restore the phone to a backup version. If nothing else works, a factory reset should clear both Androids and iPhones of malicious viruses. Only Download Apps From Official Stores Now you might be wondering, how do these viruses find their way into your phone? One of the most common ways is through downloading apps on dangerous third party websites! Apps and "updates" from non-official app stores don't pass through stringent malware checks and thus pose a greater security risk. Plus, malicious software is usually disguised as innocent-looking apps which you end up installing into your phone. To prevent this, make sure that you only download apps from official app stores like Google Play and the Apple Store! In addition, while Apple users are automatically protected, Android users can turn on Google Play Protect to run safety checks on apps before downloading them. How to turn on Google Play Protect: \tGo to the Google Play Store \tClick on the menu icon \tClick on Play Protect \tGo to Settings \tTurn Scan apps with Play Protect on Use Protection Apps Another way to add a layer of protection to your phone would be to install anti-virus apps that automatically scan your phone for viruses. There are many anti-virus apps on the official app stores, ranging from free apps like Kaspersky Mobile Antivirus to more hardcore paid services like Norton Security. And with more and more information being stored on your phone, especially with the pandemic, buffing up its security is a pretty good idea. Just remember to use protection, kids. No, really. There are too many iPad kids these days downloading who knows what from the Internet. Never Leave Online Services Unlocked I’m sure we’ve all come across the auto-login feature on our phones—something very useful when we’ve basically forgotten which of our random password variations we decided to key in for that website. I’ve already clicked "Forgot password" twice this month. Though auto-login makes it so easy for us, as long as an intruder gains access to your browser, they’ll be able to log in to all your online accounts. Therefore, try not to enable auto-login and make sure that your password is different for every website you use! That way, hackers will never be able to easily obtain all your information spread across various sites. Protect Your Password But what if you can’t manage the 20 different passwords for your email, Instagram, Twitter, Linked In and so on and so forth? That’s where password management sites come in. These services make it very easy for users to have strong, unique passwords while also removing the hassle of remembering all the different passwords. Their browser extension does all the same work as the auto-login does but in a much safer way. If you’d rather spend your money somewhere else, you could always just pen down your passwords variations in a safe place. Use a VPN Another trick to keep your phone secure is to make use of virtual private networks, or VPN for short. While we probably use VPNs so that we can access more content that is unavailable in Singapore (curse you Netflix Singapore), VPNs have another use in protecting our phones. Recall all the times you’ve connected to a public Wi-Fi network because you bao’ed your data. Did you know that such unprotected portals open your phone up to a lot of risks? Yes, but I totally did it anyway because I am addicted to my phone. Hackers could eavesdrop on the web pages you visit, or even glean your personal information and intercept files you send! I sure hope they like essays! However, when you establish a VPN connection, your phone only communicates directly with a remotely located server which then encrypts and transmits your actions to the various websites on the internet. So, your actual IP address is hidden and any dangerous activity is prevented. ScamShield Last but not the least, being aware of all sorts of scams will help keep you and your data safe from falling into the wrong hands. Scam calls and messages are extremely common in Singapore, with a record number of scams being reported last year. In fact, more than S$201 million has been lost to scams in 2020 alone. Luckily, the Government has implemented a way to stop some of them. The ScamShield app is a collaboration between various agencies that help users filter out spam calls and text messages from shady sources. Users can also report scam messages from other chat apps like WhatsApp and WeChat using the in-app function. Sadly, the app is only available on iOS so plebeian Android users will have to bear with the annoying calls for a little longer! Want to learn even more about protecting your phone from hackers? Check out this GovTech article here!