The NSA advises you to turn your phone off and back on once a week - here's why

Powering off your phone regularly, disabling Bluetooth when it's not needed, and using only trusted accessories are just some of the NSA's security recommendations.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
Additional mobile phone threats and advice
National Security Agency

That pricey and precious smartphone you carry with you can be hit by a host of security threats, from phishing to malware to spyware. All it takes is one successful attack to clobber your phone and compromise your data and even steal your identity. So, how do you protect yourself?

In a Mobile Device Best Practices report, the NSA serves up a variety of tips designed to thwart hackers and attackers from assaulting your mobile device. One method is as simple as turning your phone off and on.

Also: How to find and remove spyware from your phone

Spearphishing attacks can target your phone to install malware, while zero-click exploits are able to infect your device without any interaction on your part. The NSA's advice? Power your phone off and then back on again at least once a week. This simple action can make it more difficult for hackers to steal information from your phone, though the agency cautions that this will not always prevent an attack.

Additional mobile phone threats and advice
National Security Agency

In its report, the NSA cited several other threats that can impact your mobile device.

Malicious apps can infect your phone. Malicious Wi-Fi networks can intercept and redirect traffic from your device. Spyware can monitor the audio and video conversations on your phone. Hackers with remote access to your device can collect calling or texting data. Someone with physical access to your phone, even briefly, would of course be able to install malware or spyware.

There are several ways to protect yourself, the NSA suggests:

  • Update your apps. Be sure to update your apps and operating system with the latest security patches.
  • Use official app stores. Install apps only from official stores, such as Apple's App Store or the Google Play Store.
  • Don't click. Avoid clicking on links or file attachments in emails and text messages, as those are common ways to trigger malware.
  • Watch out for public Wi-Fi networks. Avoid joining public networks when possible. To add to the NSA's advice here, I'd recommend using a VPN whenever you join a public network.
  • Disable Bluetooth. Turn off Bluetooth when you're not using it to prevent an unauthorized device from connecting to your phone.
  • Use a secure passcode. Create a strong passcode with at least six digits to lock and unlock your phone.
  • Leverage biometrics. For greater security and convenience, enable your device's built-in facial or fingerprint scanning.
  • Use trusted accessories. Use only original charging cords or charging accessories from a trusted manufacturer. Avoid public USB charging stations.
  • Turn off location services. Disable location services when not needed.

Beyond adopting the NSA's suggestions, you can also turn to a dedicated app to help with your mobile security. One app worth installing is iVerify, a security scanner that will scour your device for malware and make sure you're using the basic security features on your iPhone or Android phone.

"Threats to mobile devices are more prevalent and increasing in scope and complexity," the NSA said in its report. "Users of mobile devices desire to take full advantage of the features available on those devices, but many of the features provide convenience and capability but sacrifice security. This best practices guide outlines steps the users can take to better protect personal devices and information."

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