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McMaster University

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Here you will find information on: Encryption and password protection, Mobile Devices (cell phones, laptops, USB keys), Wi-Fi Security (on public networks, and when traveling to other institutions), Passwords (best practices), IT Security (contacts, anti-virus software, spam/phishing emails, network drive security), and Resources (confidential waste bins, privacy impact assessments, other resources).

Mobile Devicesmobile devices - laptops, smartphones, usb

Mobile devices includes laptops, cell phones, tablets, and USB keys.

Protecting Mobile Devices

    • Enable “Find My Device” to help locate it if it's lost or stolen, and lock it or wipe it clean remotely if you need to.

    • Use a PIN or password to protect your mobile devices. Choosing not to set a PIN or not to password protect your devices is like leaving the front door to your house unlocked. On your mobile phone, a PIN is one of the easiest things you can do to ensure your security, especially if it is lost or stolen. Set your phone to time-out so it locks automatically.

    • Install updates ASAP. Many software programs automatically connect and update to defend against known risks. Turn on automatic updates on your mobile device or tablet, if that's an available option.

    • Know how to spot a “smishing” scam: It starts with an “urgent” SMS text from someone claiming to be a brand or organization you trust. These fraudsters are trying to capture your personal data through a scam known as “smishing” or phishing. If you receive a text that reads similar to, “Urgent - Your Account is Restricted” think twice before responding or clicking links within the text. When in doubt, contact the brand or organization directly to confirm that the text is real.

Extra Steps to Protect Your Mobile Device

If you enact most of the security and tips we've already suggested, your mobile phone and data should be fairly well protected. Here are several more security measures and tips for those who are heavy mobile web users or simply want extra peace of mind:

    • If available for your make and model, install anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software on your mobile, and always keep them updated.

    • Think carefully about what you absolutely need to store on your mobile, and erase everything else – browsing history, passwords, emails, text messages, and so on. They can't steal it if it no longer exists.

    • Encryption technology is available for mobile phones if you want to add an extra layer of security for your personal data. Consider installing this technology if you use your mobile for a lot of sensitive transactions and activity.

    • Take extra precaution when doing mobile banking – never save passwords or personal information, always delete your history, activity and all messages from financial institutions.

    • Always log out of sites completely when you are finished, no matter how convenient it seems to save your password or simply stay logged in.

    • Be aware that mobile phishing is a growing threat with lure emails and sites that are much harder to spot on cellphones. For instance, the URLs on mobile browsers are often difficult to see, and you may even miss them altogether.

    • Mobile predators also look for device-based data such as the contact information of your friends, GPS locations, calendar information, etc. This can then be sold, revealed or used for criminal activity.

    • Watch for signs of infection: a sudden unexplained increase in your phone bill; unexplained messages in your email and social network ‘sent' folders; or an unexplained user interface change you didn't initiate. Immediately contact your device manufacturer or service provider for instructions on removing viruses and malware if you suspect your phone is infected.

    • Turn off your device's GPS when you're not using it to keep predators from pinpointing the location of you or your device.

    • Never leave your mobile in a vehicle or unattended in public. Remember - a small mobile phone is much easier to steal than a laptop or desktop.

    • Keep a record of your phone's make, model, phone number, serial/IMEA number, and the serial/ID number of your SIM card(s). Store this note somewhere safe, and away from the device.

    • Ask your manufacturer for specific guidance on how to restore factory settings. Make sure you completely wipe out all information, history, and data from a device and all memory and SIM cards before you discard a mobile phone.

You may have the ability to track your smartphone using apps like Apple’s “Find my iPhone” and Android’s “Where’s my Droid”, which use GPS. While these apps can certainly be very useful, attempting to recover lost or stolen devices on your own can put you in harm’s way. Being cautious both before and after a device goes missing is extremely important.
Here are some precautions you can take in order to be better protected should your device get lost or stolen:

    • Know your device. Jot down your smartphone’s mobile equipment identification number (IMEI): you can find your IMEI on your device’s battery or by dialing *#06# (the number will appear on your screen). Also jot down your phone’s electronic serial number. Store this information somewhere safe: you’ll need it in order to report your device as missing to your service provider and law enforcement.

    • Keep your device password-protected. Always set a password for your device and enable it to auto-lock after a short period of time. This will help protect your personal information.

After your device goes missing, follow these steps in order to retrieve it safely:

    • Contact your service provider. The first thing you should do if your phone goes missing is contact your wireless service provider.  They will help you deactivate your device and restore it to its factory settings.  Your service provider will also place your phone on a national blacklist, preventing it from working on any Canadian wireless network.

    • Report it.  Contact your local law enforcement for help in finding and retrieving your stolen device. Should you be able to determine the device’s coordinates using an app like “Find my iPhone” or “Where’s my Droid”, provide this information to authorities. Never attempt to recover stolen property by yourself. Always put safety first.

Please note, the language above is from the Government of Canada - Get Cyber Safe - Wi-Fi Networks website.

Mobile Devices / Wireless Communication Technologies from the IPC