Here’s Why You Should Update Your Smartphone (Even If It’s Annoying)

Young woman using cell phone to send text message on social network at night. Closeup of hands with computer laptop in background

I’m not trying to be dramatic (OK, only a little), but machines are running our lives. And because machines are running our lives, crooks have wised up to this new reality and are taking advantage.

Through technology, hackers can now uncover more information about you than you probably know about yourself — which is pretty scary.

Sure, we take measures to safeguard ourselves. We install computer protection software, memorize a dozen different passwords and answer questions about our mother’s childhood best friend’s first pet’s country of origin every time we want to check our bank statements.

Unfortunately, regardless of these precautions, our information is never truly safe.

Seriously, even something as innocent as a craving for a beef-and-cheddar sandwich can put you at risk.

So, in a world where we’re so incredibly concerned about cybersecurity and identity theft, one thing remains a mystery: Why, oh why, do we not take better measures to secure our smartphones?!

Smartphone Users are Putting Themselves at Risk

Smartphones come with a number of built-in security measures, from lock-screen access codes and fingerprint scans to regular software updates that combat the ever-evolving security breaches.

However, according to a recent report from Pew Research Center, only 22% of smartphone owners surveyed said that they use a lock feature and update their software and apps whenever the option is available.

The rest is a mixed bag. About 75% of users say they use a screen-lock feature but only install software updates when it’s convenient. (Ugh, that’s me.) Around 10% of smartphone users forgo the software and app updates altogether.

Only 3% of smartphone users say they don’t update their software or use a lock feature to secure their phone. But with an incredible 251 million smartphone users in the U.S., even a small percentage is still a pretty high number.

Smartphone users 65 and older are more than twice as likely to not take advantage of any of these safety features.

Does This Mean I’m in Trouble?

Not necessarily, but it can’t hurt to be more diligent about your own cybersecurity.

If you engage in risky smartphone behavior — like online banking or shopping, especially over a public Wi-Fi network — you should take steps to ensure the safety of your personal information.

Steve Weisman, professor at Bentley University and author of the fraud and identity theft blog Scamicide, recently offered some tips to help smartphone users secure their devices and accounts.

First, he says, set up a strong password to lock your phone. What does strong mean? Well, if you use a four-digit passcode, it probably shouldn’t be 1-1-1-1. Opt instead for a random series of numbers or better yet, the thumbprint scan. Find more tips for creating secure passwords here.

Only download apps from secure web stores, such as the App Store or Google Play, and be aware of what permissions you are granting these apps.

“Too often,” Weisman notes, people “may unwittingly give permission for the app to make costly phone calls, access your contact list or know your location.” If that info gets into the hands of the wrong person, it could lead to some scary consequences.

Weisman also warns that you should install software and app updates whenever they’re available, noting that cybercriminals often use malware to take advantage of people who haven’t done so.

Another great tip? Weisman recommends setting up a “remote access feature” on your phone. That way, if it gets lost or stolen, you can lock the phone and delete all your sensitive data before anyone gains access.

And whatever you do, never, ever hand your information over to a Nigerian prince, no matter how charming or desperate to send you a million dollars he may be.

Your Turn: Do you use the lock feature on your smartphone?

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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