Security issues, vulnerabilities, and scams, sheesh, owning a smartphone seems harder than it should be, so if you’re at all concerned about how you can be safe with a smartphone, here are some tips.

The WiFi you trust

Few genuinely like to pay for mobile internet access, especially since it’s one of the chief things that can lead to mobile bill shock, so when we see “Free WiFi” at a coffee shop, restaurant, the airport, and any other place, we generally jump on it.

I mean, it’s free. Who wouldn’t want something for free?

Remember in life that there is always a catch, and most of us are on high alert for something of this sort. Unfortunately, when a mobile phone accesses free WiFi, the catch isn’t that you’re going to be advertised to — you can more or less expect that — but rather that the wireless network could have some rather nasty individuals on it who might want to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals.

That’s one of the problems with the Samsung keyboard bug that popped up recently. While Samsung was technically at fault for making the keyboard as God-like application that could run its updates in such a privileged way, the only way a hacker could exploit the vulnerability was by planting a virus-like piece of software over WiFi.

Chances are your friends and family won’t be doing that to you at your home, so your WiFi there is safe, but what about the wireless networks where you don’t know everyone connecting? What about the free WiFi in the coffee shop, the supermarket, or the airport? Lots of people connect to these, and what if someone there wants to leave something dodgy on your phone there?

In that situation, you might be in for a bit of strife, and the easier solution is to just stay on your mobile connection for places you can’t be certain to trust. That means your home is fine, and a small workplace might be, but if you don’t know or trust at least a quarter of the people connecting to a WiFi network, especially one being advertised with the terms “free WiFi” or “free internet”, don’t connect up your phone to it.

It’s just safer this way.

wifi-park

Alert! Alert!

WiFi isn’t the only way scammers can get on your phone, and malware exists as apps, available through both app stores and websites.

For the most part, Apple doesn’t tend to let security-scaring apps through its rigorous app-screening process, and Google is getting better at scanning for security problems, too, but there are other ways to trick you into installing things, to trick you into handing over information, and most of these come from websites.

You’ve probably seen “your phone has a virus” on at least one website, a fake message designed to make you think that’s actually happening. These are just ads, just cons many in the industry refer to as “scareware” designed to make you think it’s real so you install something or pay someone some money, because that’s the real intent here.

For many, if you throw up a convincing alert or error message designed to look like your smartphone, people seem to be more open to clicking on it, and this old technique has been circulating since the internet practically started for regular people, and since scammers started working out many of us could be easily tricked into thinking that a web browser was actually our computer.

There’s only one instance right now where a web browser is actually a computer, and that’s on Chrome, so if you own a Chrome browser, you’re using a web browser that is an operating system.

For everyone else, however, for anyone with an Android phone, an iPhone or iPad, a Windows Phone, a Blackberry, or any other smartphone we’ve missed, if you’re in a web browser — Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer, or the standard “internet” or “browser” your phone comes with — this is not going to produce error messages made to look like your OS. In fact, a browser will usually just crash and then restart. It’s just something mobile devices do.