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With smartphone vulnerabilities skyrocketing, here are 9 things you can do to stay safe

Published Apr 14th, 2016 11:11AM EDT

There has been a lot of talk lately about personal data security, and for good reason. In recent years, more and more hackers have been taking advantage of all sorts of vulnerabilities in web-connected products to steal personal details belonging to millions of consumers, load malicious programs on their machines, and even steal money.

Even so, there are things you can do to protect your data so that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

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Looking at the state of internet security, Norton Security makers Symantec released a detailed report that takes an in-depth look at our current digital life. The company found that mobile vulnerabilities and weaknesses are up 214% compared to 2014. That’s 528 total issues compared to 168 two years ago, an alarming increase.

The company identified several steps that consumers can take to protect their data, and make it harder for hackers to attack them.

Use better passwords

Symantec argues that you should use strong passwords and change them regularly. You should try to come up with complex passwords that can include letters and numbers, including upper and lowercase letters and punctuation, and you should have unique passwords for all the services you use – a password management app might be handy.

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You should limit the amount of personal information you make publicly available via social networks so that it can’t be used by hackers to impersonate you. Personal and financial information should not be shared, and you should make sure you review bank, credit card, and credit information frequently.

Buy online from trusted devices

Do not go on an online shopping spree from a public computer. Instead, use a device you trust, like your smartphone, tablet or PC.

Beware of free public Wi-Fi

Free public Wi-Fi is great if all you want to do is read the news. But it’s not always safe for anything that involves exchanging private information. Make sure you use HTTPS when connecting to your online accounts. Similarly, don’t turn your home Wi-Fi into a public Wi-Fi hotspot that’s not protected by a password. Instead, always use a password so that only authorized devices can connect to it.

Update your software frequently

Regardless what operating systems and apps you favor, hackers are targeting them all. Software makers often update their OS releases and apps when vulnerabilities are encountered, so make sure you’re always on the latest version to avoid becoming a target.

Download only from trusted sources

When installing new software, make sure you get your updates from the developer rather than a third-party that might provide a malware-ridden version of the app.

Use protection where available

Computer antivirus software is widely available, so you should definitely use it on those operating systems that require such usage.

Don’t fall for fake warnings

More than once, you might see alerts pop up in a browser telling you that your computer is infected with some virus. Don’t fall for these tricks. Instead, make sure your system is protected, as mentioned before, and use that antivirus program to scan the device.

Never click on dubious content

If it sounds too exciting or too good to be true, and it originates from a person you don’t know or never interacted with online, then don’t click on that email attachment. Even when receiving email attachments from friends and family be wary on what you click on, so that you don’t become the victim of hackers. The same goes for clicking suspicious URLs, including shortened ones.

Symantec’s full study is available at this link.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.