Cryptolocker, lockey, matsnu, Ransomware…Everyday another hospital, business, personal computer and even smart phones falls victim to the hideous ransomware. Ransomware, put simply, is a program that encrypts all of your data on your device and, for a negotiated price, you can purchase a key to unlock and decrypt your data. It’s a surprisingly easy way for crypto-criminals to make money because, a majority of the time, people pay.

One of the easiest targets today is smart phones and tablets. The trusty device that’s by your side almost 24x7 as you are going in and out of offices, coffee shops, gyms, airports among other countless public hotspots. For instance, mobile devices on the AT&T network are programmed to join automatically to any hotspot with the SSID(name) of “attwifi”. This includes a criminal sitting in a public area with a laptop broadcasting a SSID of “attwifi”.

How to Secure Your Device

There are multiple ways to secure your phone.

  1. Secure your mobile device by turning off “Auto-Join” or even turning off you wifi on your mobile device altogether. Turn it on when you need it and this will also give you a boost in battery life as well.
    • On the iPhone: Launch the Settings app > Tap Wi-Fi > Tap the blue arrow to the right of attwifi. > Switch the Auto-Join tab to OFF.
  2. Another method is to use a cheap or free VPN service on your phone or tablet. Some are low cost or even free. For example, Cyberghost, TotalVPN, and Opera VPN are all free for download in the iOS Appstore and in the Google Play store and are some of the highest rated according to PCMag.com and customer reviews. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2390381,00.asp .

    VPN’s or Virtual Private Networking isolates you from public networks by creating a virtual tunnel between your device and the VPN server. This way all of your data would come from the VPN server and not the public wifi in your local coffee shop.
  3. Also since Android devices equal to 81% of the global market share according to latest Gartner report and 97% of all malicious mobile malware is aimed at Android, protecting yourself with an anti-virus(A.V.) solution designed for mobile devices is a must.
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    Currently, my favorite is from SOPHOS. I make sure to put it on all of my kids’ devices since it has features way past anti-virus alone. These features include anti-malware and A.V., but also include great things such as loss and theft protection, remote lock or wipe, remote location along with SPAM protection from text messages and blocking of unwanted calls. My favorite thing about it though, it’s FREE.

The Rich Nigerian Prince

While we’re on the subject of FREE. The best protection you can have is also free. This protection comes from education and spotting a “phishing” or malicious email.  Many people have heard of the “rich Nigerian prince” who is looking to give you cash in exchange for your click on a link or a wire transfer. The reason why we still hear of these emails, is because they still work. People are still clicking on the attachments and links in emails that come from unsolicited senders.

The best practice when it comes to strange emails is to verify it’s legitimately from the sender, also do not click on the link. Instead, cut and paste the URL into a browser and, if the email has an attachment and cannot be verified by the sending party, delete it. It’s better to delete it and have the sender send a verified email rather than to have your phone or tablet become a brick of encrypted data.

One Last Piece of Best Practice Advice

One last point is to back up your device nightly, or at least multiple times a week, on your PC or Mac. Encrypting the backup isn’t a bad idea but be sure to keep track of the encryption password or key. Otherwise, you just ransomeware’d yourself!

These steps may be a minor inconvenience, but compared to losing all your mobile email, text messages and personal pictures it’s well worth it. Start creating secure habits and you’ll have less to worry about.