This is a consumer advice column written by the Better Business Bureau of Northern Indiana. It appears Thursdays in Business.
From phishing emails to unsecure websites and smishing texts, technology can be a minefield for hackers and scammers. In celebration of National Consumer Protection Week, your BBB serving Northern Indiana urges consumers to be aware that both smartphones and computers are vulnerable to the same hackers, spammers and malware. BBB has these tips for protecting your personal devices:
•Update your software. Your computer should have the latest anti-virus software installed, along with a secure firewall.
•Shop on trustworthy websites. Check a seller's reputation and record of customer satisfaction at bbb.org. Look for the “s” in https:// in the address box to ensure you're shopping on a secure website.
•Avoid clicking on links from emails sent from anyone you do not know or if they appear suspicious.
•Set strict privacy settings. Consider restricting access on social network profiles to only friends or family, or people you know.
•Set strong passwords. Make sure all passwords, most importantly your passwords for online banking, social media accounts and email, are difficult to guess.
•Lock your phone. Add a security code to your phone to prevent thieves from accessing your data. Then set your device to lock automatically when not in use for a time.
•Update your operating system. Regularly updating your phone closes security loopholes and other backdoors hackers can use to access your phone without your knowledge.
•Beware of unknown apps and links. Do not download any apps or click on links in your email or social media pages without first researching the source. They may contain viruses, malware or spyware that can compromise your personal data.
•Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi. If you choose to connect to an unsecured or public Wi-Fi network, do not enter passwords or access any personal data.
•Check your permissions. Check all of your apps to see what data they are accessing and revoke permissions for information those apps don't need to properly operate.
•Delete “smishing” texts. Like “phishing,” “smishing” schemers often pose as banks or lottery sweepstakes and ask customers to contact them immediately about a pressing issue that needs to be discussed. Do not reply, and erase the message immediately.
•Erase old phones completely. If you're selling, donating or recycling your old phone, ensure all your data is completely erased and the phone is returned to factory settings before letting it out of your possession.