While big organizations and multinational companies are prime targets for hackers and scammers, unsuspecting everyday humans can also fall prey to cybercriminals. 

One of the most common ways these cybercriminals target everyday people is through their smartphones and tablets. From sending spam messages to phishing emails and the like, these nefarious individuals (or teams) work tirelessly to try and steal people’s information and even their money. 

We share five of the easiest ways you can protect your phone and, in turn, your privacy from the likes of malicious third parties and more. 

  1. Protect your phone by locking it

Each time you get a new phone or device, protect it by locking it. These days, smartphones have different types of verification functions. Whether it’s fingerprint or facial recognition, passcodes, or patterns, always ensure your phone has some kind of lock. 

Most smartphones also allow users to choose how long they want to leave their phone idle before it gets locked. When creating your passcode, be sure to set the idle mode of your phone to the lowest setting possible. 

  1. Use a VPN 

You’ve probably heard of a virtual private network (VPN) before. Some of you might even use it on another device, like your laptop or desktop. 

However, not everyone knows that you can also protect your smartphone with a VPN. When you connect to a VPN, you’re essentially encrypting your internet connection, preventing malicious third parties from being able to intercept your connection and steal your data and other information. Your internet service provider, too, won’t be able to see your online activity. 

Most VPN providers have a smartphone app that secures your device on the go. The ExpressVPN app, for example, protects your device almost instantly with a tap of a button.

Using a VPN is especially helpful when you’re traveling or if you’re using an unknown WiFI connection.

  1. Update your apps

Always make it a point to update your apps and software to prevent bugs from potentially affecting how you experience these apps. Most times, patches rolled out by developers help to fix vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to hijack and seed viruses and malware onto your device. 

Plus, release notes from an app or software update usually share vulnerabilities that observant hackers could use and take advantage of. 

  1. Never connect to unknown WiFi networks

Free WiFi is great when you’re traveling and don’t have access to a secure internet connection. However, these unsecured networks can sometimes pose threats by hackers and scammers looking to steal your information and fill your phone with malware. 

These types of attacks are known as man-in-the-middle attacks (MitM). While they’re not as common as ransomware or phishing attacks, MitM attacks are dangerous and, according to reports, make up to 35 percent of exploitation activities

If you need to tap on an unsecured WiFi connection, use a VPN. As mentioned earlier, a VPN helps encrypt your internet connection. Alternatively, make sure to look for protected WiFis instead. We know it’s not always fun to ask for the password for the WiFi, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. 

  1. Be careful of what you download 

Phishing and ransomware attacks are some of the most common types of cyberattacks. While there are many different types of phishing attacks, hackers and scammers love sending text messages that force their victims to click on a link to download a document or visit a site. Once their victim has clicked on the link, their credentials can get stolen, or their devices might get infected by malware. 

What can you do if your phone gets infected? 

If you still fall victim to a hacker, perform a factory setting instantly. A factory setting resets your phone, and deletes your photos, videos, messages, and other personal information. While it’s not the ideal solution, it’s quick and prevents further damage. 

Once you’ve recovered your phone, make sure to download an antivirus app to ensure this doesn’t happen to you again.