If you spent the morning on Twitter, CNN, or just about any other corner of the Internet, you might believe that they only thing that's happened anywhere in the universe this week is Apple's product announcement on Wednesday. Joined by developers from Adobe and Microsoft, the company showed off a new iPad, new iPhone, and a pencil. That's right, a pencil.
In all the excitement of a new $70 pencil, it was easy to miss Apple's discussion of iOS 9, which is to be released September 16. For some, however, that date was surprising, because their phones had been asking them to upgrade to iOS 9 for days. Unfortunately, that update was not from Apple. It was from scammers, hoping to gain access to people's mobile phones, where we keep all of our secrets. The effects of the attempted scam appear to be minimal so far, but it's a great reminder to brush up on our mobile security. Here are some quick steps you can take to protect yourself on your phone:
1). Always update your software. It can be annoying to find a time to plug in your phone when you're on Wi-Fi, and sometimes you don't want to put your phone down for an hour or more while it downloads the most recent operating system. For smaller apps, it can feel like you're dealing with a new update every other week. What's the deal? Those apps never seem to add anything useful.
The reason you get so many little updates is that the apps from major developers are constantly getting security updates. Google and Microsoft update every two weeks, usually with minor bug fixes and security updates, but they'll update more frequently if security risks dictate it. It might be annoying sometimes, but the frequency of those updates is the best security you have for the software you use on your phone everyday.
The biggest security issues are covered by operating system updates. Apple is notoriously slow on OS updates, just like they are with many of their apps, which only serves to make their updates even more important. When iOS 9 comes out on the 16th, it will be their third major update of the year, which is far more frequent than usual. If you're currently running anything before iOS 8.4.1, your security is out of date, and only going to be more antiquated next week. Take the time to update--it's worth it.
2). Think about the Wi-Fi you connect to. If you're still on a restrictive data plan - and with the price of mobile data being what it is, no one would blame you - you understand the relief that finding the open Wi-Fi connection of a fast-food restaurant or coffee shop can provide. But that relief might be misguided. After all, that barista - the one with the tattoos, piercings, and boho sense of cool - isn't an IT specialist. It's unlikely they get paid much more than minimum wage plus tips, and that kind of salary doesn't attract tech-savvy security experts. When was the last time the router was replaced? When did they last update the firmware or check the network for viruses? You're about to connect your phone, which may be the most expensive object on your person, the object you use the most often, and the most irreplaceable tether to your family and friends to a network whose security is at best questionable and at worst far from safe. If all you were planning to do was check social media or the box score of last night's game, you might want to just stay on your LTE or 4G network. If you were going to do anything more private, whether it's email, banking, or shopping, you definitely want to consider whether that coffee shop wi-fi is a good idea.
3). Reconsider what you do on your phone. If you had a time machine and could show your smart phone to a younger you from the 1990s, the younger you would be stunned. If you were into grunge music, you might use Spotify or Apple Music to explain that you now carry every song ever recorded in your pocket at all times. If you spent the 1990s rollerblading, you might pull up MyFitnessPal or Nike+ to show how you can track your heart rate, calories burned, and steps taken every day. If you spent the 1990s in an office, you might pull out Excel or PowerPoint to explain that, well, basically it's the same thing, but on a smaller screen. The next thing that would happen, though, is that they younger you would ask what else you use it for everyday. You'd explain messaging and email, but when you explained mobile banking how would you react?
If you told your younger self that you had a personal computer in your pocket at all times, and that you put your most private secrets in it - from medical information to intimate conversations with your romantic partner to your financial data - which you then sent out into the world through an invisible network (which you don't understand), which then ran your secrets through servers (in a location that you don't know), before traveling through another hard-wired network (that you can't explain) to your financial institution or investment firm, where the information immediately reversed course and came back to you over the same mysterious connections...If you told that to your younger self would they be impressed? Or would they smash the phone on the ground and slap you in the face for your stupidity? How can you trust your secrets that way? Why are you putting all of that information in one place?
If you want to protect your information online, you need to use the kinds of software that are built with security protocols and frequent updates. You need to do your banking on our app. We have found the best software security providers in the business and built layer after layer to protect your information. We're not interested in disappointing the 90's version of you, who still believes that there's a difference between public life and private life. We want your information safe and secure.
Our app also lets you make transfers, track your spending, report fraudulent activity, or do virtually anything else you could do in our brick and mortar locations. Most importantly, it's still us on the other end - a neighborhood credit union that puts service for members ahead of profits, so you know we're not going to cut corners on security.