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Common security risks every smartphone user should know about

Our smartphones have evolved to become the digital portals to our entire lives. They store our personal details, keep us in touch with friends and co-workers, provide access to our financial accounts, and even secure our homes.

Due to this larger role, cybercriminals are targeting smartphones more than ever and mobile security threats are increasing. Due to their portable nature, users are connected through their smartphones almost all of the time, making them much more enticing targets than traditional desktop PCs.

Note: Hackers are finding new ways to sneak malware onto all of your devices, which leaves your data at risk. Plus, you're always at risk of losing your data to things like water damage, theft or even system malfunctions. That's why strongly encourage you to back up all of your devices with Universal Backup by our sponsor IDrive. With IDrive, you can protect up to five devices on the same account without an additional fee. This includes products from Windows, Apple and Android. For around $5 per month, you can rest easy knowing your data is protected. And, don't forget - as a listener of Kim Komando you can save even more. Click here and use promo code KIM to save 50% on up to 2TB of storage!

Here are our top security risks you need to be aware of when using a smartphone:

Installing apps from unknown sources

Malicious software could infiltrate your phone if you allow applications to install from unverified sources in a process called sideloading.

Side-loading apps may be tempting because of all the free versions of otherwise paid apps and games but this comes with a price. It is a big security hole that could allow malware, masquerading as legitimate apps, to infect your phone.

On Android smartphones, the best practice is to avoid downloading and installing apps from "Unknown Sources." Only download apps from the official Google Play app store and make sure you check user reviews, too, before installing.

For iPhones, avoid jailbreaking or any other workarounds that would allow you to install apps from sources other than the official App Store.

Note: Your device may already be infected. Click here to learn the signs that your phone or tablet has a virus.

Getting infected through web links

Vectors for security hacks hide in the form of poisoned websites loaded with malware. Be careful with links sent to you and the websites you visit.

Drive-by malware downloads could happen anytime without you knowing it. Don't grant any system permissions to prompts coming from unknown sources.

Click here for 5 questions you should ask before clicking ANY link.

Getting fooled by phishing attacks

Phishing scams trick users into relinquishing credentials and credit card information by overlaying real applications or security updates with fake mobile phishing pages resembling the real thing.

These kinds of scams are also relayed via emails that pretend to be coming from companies like PayPal, Amazon, and credit card or banking institutions. Clicking on the links supplied by these fake emails often lead to portals that will attempt to steal your data and install malware to launch further attacks.

Can you spot a fake email? Click here to take our phishing IQ test.

Weak passwords

Other security risks are weak passwords and the non-usage of two-factor authentication for your smartphone. Passwords and passcodes are the first line of defense for your device and your online accounts. Don't make the mistake of not having a security code or password for your device.

Also, your passwords should be complex and complicated enough to avoid getting brute forced. But how can you tell if your password is hack-proof? Click here for five common password mistakes you need to avoid.

Not applying security updates

Firmware and security patches for your smartphone's software are regularly being rolled out for a reason. Aside from new features, updates will also patch newly discovered bugs and security vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit.

Not being current or up-to-date with your device's software opens you to emerging security threats and holes that cybercriminals are constantly probing to exploit.

It is in your best interest to apply security updates as soon as they become available for your smartphone, be it iOS, Windows Phone, or Android. Keep in mind, though, that older phones may not be receiving updates anymore.

Note: Apple users, there's a critical update you need to install now. Click here to see why updating to iOS 10.3.3 is critical for your security.

No encryption or remote wipe

In case you lose your smartphone, make sure you enable the ability to locate, lock, and remote wipe it so thieves cannot access your personal data.

iOS has this feature enabled with the "Find My iPhone" app. Android users can download "Android Device Manager" to access similar features.

Smartphones also allow for encryption of user data to prevent direct access of your files in case a hacker gets a hold of your phone.

Note: One way to encrypt data on your device is to use a VPN. These virtual private networks hide your identity online. Click here for a review of the top VPN services out there.

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