As a physician or medical professional, your phone may be one of the most useful items you have. You can use it to call, text message, and email, but it can be far more than your main means of maintaining personal communications. You also use it for maintaining your social media accounts, shopping, paying your bank and other bills, taking and sending photos, and finding your way around town.
Unfortunately, these mobile conveniences come with a downside – the high risk of being hacked and having sensitive data breached. With as little information as a mobile phone number, a hacker can hack into the unprotected phone and access any of its data, including personal information such as text messages and voicemails, the phone’s location, stored photos, and bank account passwords.
Simple steps can help you protect your phone against hackers. You can dramatically lower your risk of being hacked and, if your phone has already been violated, you can reduce the amount of damage that you experience.
Only Download Apps from Trusted Sites
Smartphones are so sophisticated that they are essentially small computers, and, like computers, they can be inflicted with malware. Since apps are a major vehicle for transmitting malware to smartphones, focusing on making sure that apps are safe can help prevent the acquisition of malware. Use a well-known app marketplace, and do not download unofficial knockoffs of apps. In addition, antivirus apps can help.
Read the Fine Print
Before you download an app, read the permissions associated with it. Suspicious apps may ask for unreasonable permissions. For example, an app that claims to be a game of solitaire but requires the user to enable sound recording for no apparent reason seems suspicious; it may be a ruse to enable a hacker to record the user’s phone calls. Most major app stores, such as the Google Android Market, Appstore for Android on Amazon, and the Blackberry and Microsoft app stores, provide the list of permissions on their apps. Take advantage of this information. Apple does not disclose this information, but claims to screen the apps it sells.
Change the SIM Card Often
A subscriber identity module, or SIM, card is the small plastic card that goes into some cell phones and allows the phone carrier network to recognize the phone. As with all data, if cell phone carriers can use it to identify the associated phone and person, so can a hacker. Changing the SIM card as frequently as every few weeks or months can reduce the chances of being hacked, since it can take a month or more for the new SIM card to be recognized on the cell phone registry. A SIM card can cost less than $1, and can be well worth the investment. While this can be an effective strategy, it only works for customers of T-Mobile and AT&T, since Verizon and Sprint do not support SIM cards.
Cut the Man-in-the-Middle
If your phone falls victim to this scheme, the man-in-the-middle, or a third party, intercepts messages, emails, phone calls or photos that you send before allowing them to continue to their original destination. To take it a step further, the hacker can direct the phone to send out such data even when the phone is off. The only way to terminate this invasion of privacy is to remove the phone’s battery to cut the power supply and disable the phone’s ability to transmit data.
Bottom line: be vigilant. Your personal data and possibly your patient’s data could be at risk.
Last Updated on May 8, 2014