‘Get Smart’ About Using Mobile Devices Securely - 10/20/11

In celebration of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, ITaP is offering a few tips to help users “Get Smart” about keeping information secure on smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices. Here are some considerations for protecting information and mobile devices from potential threats.

ITaP is hosting a security presentation 9-11 a.m.
today, Oct. 20, in Stewart Center’s Fowler Hall in conjunction with National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

FBI agents will discuss the security threats they deal with and the vulnerabilities and threats the University needs to protect against.

The event is free and open to the public. It also will be live-streamed and archived for viewing anytime online at mms://

Lock phone and enable password protection. To help keep data on a smartphone or mobile device protected, consider treating it like a purse or wallet — always close by and within physical reach. Implementing a password-protected screen lock may reduce problems in the event a device is lost or stolen, especially for users who store sensitive information, like credit card or bank account numbers. Because passwords are not failproof, security experts recommend encrypting data as another layer of protection. Also, it’s a good idea to back up the data onto a PC or server in case a mobile device is lost for good.

Connect to secure Wi-Fi networks, and disable Wi-Fi when not needed. With Wi-Fi connections, data typically is sent unencrypted through the air between a mobile device and a nearby access point, making it easy for hackers to compromise sensitive information. Implementing proper security safeguards, like authenticated wireless connections or virtual private networks, can mitigate such risks. Purdue Air Link, the Wi-Fi connection on campus, is secure.

Update apps and software frequently; select the automatic update option if available. Older versions of applications and operating systems could contain bugs or deficiencies and leave mobile devices vulnerable, allowing attackers a route to bypass security features. To help avoid such risks, software and applications should be updated regularly.

Disable Bluetooth and enable only as needed. Bluetooth capability on today’s mobile devices makes it convenient to talk on a hands-free headset. Unfortunately, it also leaves users vulnerable to hackers, who can take advantage of Bluetooth default settings to launch attacks. To limit exposure, users should disable Bluetooth when it is not actively transmitting information.

Disable geotagging or physical locators; enable only as needed for directions. Many mobile devices are pre-set to encode the places where media are recorded. Called geotags, these indicators of physical location are embedded in photos and videos taken with GPS-equipped devices and can compromise users’ privacy and safety when pictures and videos are posted online. To reduce risk and exposure, disable this feature when not using it for directions.

For more information on how to protect smartphones, laptops or other mobile devices against potential threats, please visit the SecurePurdue website.

“Get Smart” is this year’s theme for the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month campaign, which has occurred every October since 2001. Its purpose is to educate computer users about safe behavior online, the nation’s critical cyber infrastructure, and the dangers on the Internet. This is the sixth year Purdue University has observed the campaign.

NOTE: This article was written by Andrea Thomas, technology writer for ITaP, 496-8204.