Nearly three-quarters of Americans have never installed any type of data protection or security software on their mobile devices, leaving themselves completely open to data loss, viruses, and malware. 72% of us, to be exact, have unsecured smartphones, even as they take on an increasingly important role in our digital lives.

Update your OS: The expanding selection of mobile devices results in more complex operating systems and applications, which ultimately increases attack opportunities. One hopes that, as criminal hackers and security researchers expose new vulnerabilities, OS manufactures will role out timely updates to fix flaws.

Most OS updates require a USB connection to your Mac or PC and a desktop application that bridges the connection between your device and the manufacturer’s website. Newer OS updates can sometimes be downloaded directly to a phone through a Wi-Fi connection or your carrier’s network.

Update your applications: Just as an operating system can have a security or privacy vulnerability, so can an application. Most applications require functionality updates in order to remain compatible with OS updates. Updating an application should be fairly straightforward. Apps can usually be updated from the phone by accessing the official app store through the carrier’s network. Depending on the size of the download, a Wi-Fi connection may sometimes be necessary.

Lock your mobile device: 4-digit PINs for iPhones; or pattern recognition for Androids, are the current standard security measures. These flimsy defenses need to be updated to a more secure alternative, or at least a longer alphanumeric string, especially for the phones used for business purposes.

A very high percentage of owners lock their devices with a short PIN, and may be unaware of the alternatives to this bare minimum, such as a “non-simple” security option on the iPhone. And most PINs are weak as well as short. Five basic combinations ¾ “1234,” “0000,” “1111,” “2580,” or “0852 ¾ make up more than 10% of all PINs.

Install antivirus protection: Just like on a PC, mobile antivirus products should provide real-time protection against viruses, worms, spyware, Trojan horses, and battery-sapping malware. Adequate mobile antivirus protection guards against threats that originate via email, instant messaging, and Internet downloads. It detects data received from multiple entry and exit points, including email, instant message attachments, Internet downloads, SMS, MMS, WiFi, and Bluetooth.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto. Disclosures

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