Most mobile devices offer the option for hardware encryption, which only allows data to be accessed through authentication with a chosen PIN, passcode or fingerprint. With this enabled, when you lock your device, either manually or because you’re inactive, it automatically encrypts.
Managing Permission Controls
There are three major permission controls key to maintaining privacy on mobile devices. These are your device’s camera, microphone and location. If you’ve ever observed the phenomenon when you come across on ad on social media and you’re certain you were just talking about it in-person with a friend, it’s not a coincidence. This can happen when your microphone is turned on and the app is accessing that data. The same goes for camera and location data.
You’ll notice every now and then that you get a pop-up from an app, requesting permission to access your device’s camera, microphone or location to improve its efficiency. Similarly, some apps request access to other hardware features, including Bluetooth connectivity, motion and fitness sensors, and devices on your local network.
Any app is a potential security risk. By keeping a minimal number of apps on your phone and disabling camera, microphone and location access, you can improve your personal cybersecurity. It can help to periodically review/change which apps have access to these features through your device’s settings menu.
Ad and Tracker Blockers
A more feasible measure is to use ad and tracker blockers. Ad blockers use filters to block specific content by informing browsers not to load content that does not adhere to their filters. Many ad blockers offer numerous filters that can be activated or deactivated; thus, the extent to which content is blocked is ultimately up to the user. This can be useful for removing distracting ads, increasing web speed, reducing bandwidth and battery usage, and it can help protect from malware, among other advantages.
Ad blockers also offer protection from trackers, which send information about you to website publishers as well as analytics or advertising companies. This information includes your search behavior and the type of device you use, helping them to personalize what you see on websites. Many would consider this an invasion of privacy, so if you’re serious about protecting your web privacy, ad and tracker blockers are a valuable set of tools.
Another measure you can take is to use “private”/incognito browsing, but it’s important to understand this does not ensure total privacy. Private browsing was not created to mask or hide your identity, but it does automatically erase browsing history, search history and cookies.
It can also limit web tracking, which means websites have a harder time keeping tabs on you; and some private browsers even help hide your location. However, it does not offer total privacy because internet providers can still see which websites you visit.
When it comes to encrypting your connection, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) may be your best route. Because websites, internet service providers (ISP) or anyone connected to your network can see your browsing activity through your computer’s IP address (or virtual ID), private browsers do not protect you from snooping. However, a VPN can offer anonymity by masking your IP address from everyone except for the VPN provider. It does this by providing an encrypted tunnel from your device to the Internet, which blocks others from seeing inside.
Although many VPNs are available for use, it’s important not to go with free options since many contain malware. You should choose one that suits your budget and needs, and sign up for a trial to test out the speed beforehand.
The bottom line
Although technology has made our lives easier in many respects, it has also left us vulnerable to privacy attacks and identity fraud in ways that weren’t possible just a few decades ago. It’s important to be aware of who has access to our personal data and how it is being used. This could mean the difference between financial implications resulting in years of headaches and worry-free, continued use of advantageous technology.
BNY Mellon is committed to protecting your data and account information. BNY Mellon’s Enterprise Resiliency Office works in coordination with our digital and technology teams to deliver timely and effective incident identification, assessment, escalation, communication and resolution. This is done with the goal of providing clients with superior service as well as world-class products and services.