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Why a 007 Burner Phone Might Be More Applicable For You Than You Think…

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Even if you aren’t Ethan Hunt or James Bond, depending on your lifestyle a pre-paid ‘burner’ phone may be of use for you, even when on the right side of the law.

Who Might Benefit From a Burner Phone?

For example, if;

  • You meet people from online dating sites you could use one to connect with strangers for the first time so if they turn out to be wierdo's or stalkers then you can very easily cut them off.
  • Your profession requires for safety reasons a distinct separation between work and personal life, e.g. an exotic dancer. You can give guys who chat you to your burner number to remain totally anonymous until you fully trust them.
  • You run a business that requires you to post your contact information online (such as selling on eBay, Craiglist or Gumtree) you can use a burner to post your contact details online for your customers to use.
  • You may have a new side business that solicits a lot of marketing calls so to prevent your personal phone being plagued you use a burner instead.

Using a burner phone gives you a decent level of anonymity as if acquired correctly, nobody is able to trace the phone to the owner (as long as you pay by cash both for the handset and the prepaid SIM card).

You can pick up a Nokia 105 which will act as a great burner for as little as £10 from most high street phone shops. You can also use an app like Hushed which fulfils a similar function but on your current phone and for as little as $4.99/month you get unlimited anonymous texts and minutes.

If you don’t feel like you need to go as far as having a burner phone, this leaves one key question – how do we lock down the security of our mobile phones?

How to Secure Our Mobile Devices

There are a number of things I recommend we do to ensure good mobile phone security;

Operating System (OS) and App Updates

Ensure your devices are set to automatically update their OS and apps. This is the easiest way to ensure you manage your device’s inherent software vulnerabilities.

Anti-Virus (AV)

Nowadays we need AV on our mobiles and tablets as a result of how we’re using them (e.g. mobile banking) and because cyber criminals are specifically designing malware for them because people typically think you can’t get viruses on them. See this post for my recommended products to use. There is one exception to this rule…iOS devices don’t need an anti-virus  because some operating systems are inherently more secure than others. I opt for Apple mobile products since iOS is by its very design, more secure than other platforms. So much so, that Apple iOS vulnerabilities on the black market are expensive , sometimes costing cyber criminals over $1million!

Top Tip: Be aware that if you only use iOS products only you’re OK but if you have a mix of iOS devices and MacOS / Windows / Android / Other that occasionally connect to one another, your iOS devices could silently harbour malware which could then attack your other less secure devices when they’re connected.

Device Password

Everyone, without exception, should have a password or code required to access their device. Nowadays phones and tablets have fingerprint and facial recognition to make this process seamless so really, there is no excuse. It prevents a lot of avoidable risks such as children picking up your phone and seeing your browsing history, nosey mates wanting to check who’s been texting you and will stop opportunistic thieves from being able to access your private data. Try and have a passcode that is at a minimum 6 digits long. If you have an iPhone and only use a 4 digit passcode, go to settings, disable ‘Simple Passcode’ and create a longer one.

Mobile Device Encryption

Everyone should be encrypting their device in case it is lost or stolen. It is one of the best protections against data theft. If you have an iPhone or iPad they should do this by default – check by going to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode. At the bottom of the screen you should see a message that says “Data protection is enabled”, this means encryption is turned on. Also turn on encryption for your iTunes backups if you back up the contents of your phone to your PC/tablet. If you use an Android device, it offers full-disk encryption when you first set up your device, or from the “Security” settings menu.

Remote Wiping

Use a remote wiping app to allow you to locate, remotely control and erasure data should it be lost or stolen. This will not only help get your expensive smartphone back, but also reduces the window for possible unauthorised access whilst it’s left in a taxi or restaurant. iPhones have the Find Your Phone app, for all other platforms you can use an app like Prey.

Lock Down Privacy Settings of Apps

Use an app like MyPermissions – Privacy Cleaner which scans all your apps on your device and then automatically provides you with options to lock down the sometimes unnecessarily lenient privacy permissions they allow. Some apps simply don’t need to have our GPS location or ability to see all our contacts!

Get Rid of Unused Apps

We love downloading apps on our devices, even if it’s just to try them out. This leads to devices being clogged up with numerous unused apps which you might just think is just untidy, however, it has security implications. With every extra app on your device, you create more vulnerabilities increasing the number of ways an attacker could compromise your device.

Turn off Bluetooth When Not in Use

Not only does it drain your battery but it leaves you vulnerable to ‘blue-jacking’ attacks where someone close to you secretly connects to your phone and then accesses data on it. This isn’t possible when your phone isn’t broadcasting Bluetooth signal.

For kids’ mobile devices...

  • Turn Off Access to the Internet if Not Needed: if you have kids who use devices purely for playing games or watching movies then consider dropping the mobile data plan or WiFi access on that device altogether. Doing so would eliminate a number of threats to the child and any curiosity to explore the web unchecked.
  • Child-Safe Browser: browsers that come on most of our devices aren’t already configured to be child-safe. Consider using a specific child-safe browser, such as Qustodio parental control software or the McGruff SafeGuard Browser which allows much more control over the types of website that can be visited.

Mobile devices are increasing being targeted as they have a wealth of our personal data on them. Hopefully with the tips above, you should be able to secure yours from the grips of cyber criminals!

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