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How to protect personal data on your mobile phone

The average person spends around 23 days a year on their phone, a figure that’s only increasing as we do more through mobile tech. Although convenient for our work and social lives, it means that phones store a huge amount of personal information, from your name to contact and bank details. This can have the unfortunate side effect of making your phone a target for hackers. While most of us know the basics of protecting our computers from viruses, protecting our mobiles is less familiar territory.  

Malware, which is short for 'malicious software', is the main threat for phones. It gets into your mobile without your knowledge or consent, causing different kinds of damage, from helping criminals commit fraud to sending you spam. A scam that made headlines in 2014 involved hackers holding personal details hostage through people's mobiles. They locked the phones remotely and only gave owners access to their personal information after they'd paid a ransom.

Malware usually hides in apps that initially seem harmless. Once downloaded onto your phone, it will target other apps that hold your personal information. This is mainly a concern if you’re using financial programmes, like banking or finance management services.

Reassuringly, these kind of attacks don’t just happen at random; they’re only possible if you download an unsafe app. So it’s important to pay close attention to what you download, checking that the programme is made by a reliable developer and isn’t asking you for unnecessary information. When you’re looking at important stuff like financial details, remember not to use public Wi-Fi, have a secure password and always log out after finishing a transaction.

On top of these checks, it’s a good idea to get some extra protection, similar to the anti-virus software that’s probably on your laptop right now. Software security company Intercede claims to have solved the malware problem for financial service and payment apps with a programme called MyTAM (My Trusted Application Manager). This lets users load pre-screened apps directly onto their phones' chipsets. The apps also have built-in security keys, adding an extra layer of protection to stop any chances of infection. 

At the moment, it’s only available on newer Android devices, but you can find more universal security apps from trusted companies like McAfee and Norton.

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