Tech Tips: Protect your smart phone from internet threats

With all of us more reliant on technology than ever, our mobile devices have become lifelines to the outside world. That means it’s vital to protect them. Here’s what you need to know about the latest security options available for your iPhone, iPad or Android device.

Mobile security features continue to advance, giving you greater control over your privacy. Not only can you restrict an app’s access to location, you also can customize camera and microphone access, control app permissions, and more. It’s a good idea to evaluate these settings on a regular basis, as they sometimes change with new updates.

While there is mobile antivirus software, and you should definitely use it, it’s not quite the same as antivirus for computers. In particular, iPhone antivirus doesn’t really exist because of Apple’s tight security for its mobile system software (called iOS, or iPadOS if you’re using a tablet). Apps are “sandboxed,” or isolated, and each new version of system software improves upon those restrictions. That’s not to say an iPhone could never get a virus, but it’s not as likely as on other systems.

But iPhone and iPad users shouldn’t get complacent about security. Some internet threats, like phishing scams, are universal. And both iPhone and Android users should know that malicious apps run rampant in the official app stores. The minimal antivirus options available for Apple devices make it all the more important to check your security settings on a regular basis.

Android isn’t quite as stringent a system as Apple’s iOS. That makes it more flexible for users, but also easier for viruses to gain a foothold. Many of the same companies that make antivirus for computers, including McAfee, Bitdefender, Avast and Norton, make Android versions of their products.

Other common security features available on both iOS and Android include WiFi scanners that notify you if your connection is insecure, and plug-ins to help protect your web browser. There also may be options to protect your photos, videos and other files, and to encrypt your mobile device backups.

Your service provider may offer additional security features for your phone. Some are free, while others may require monthly payments. These features may overlap with those available from other security apps, so you’ll want to evaluate which solutions you prefer.

There are other ways to reduce the risks to your mobile device. Keep it locked with a PIN, or with biometrics like a face or fingerprint scan. Enable the Find My feature in case it’s lost or stolen. Use a password manager to keep your passwords safe. Most password managers work on both your computer and mobile device, making it easier to protect your accounts.

Be careful about the apps you install, and remove the ones you don’t use. Check your subscriptions for scammy fleeceware apps that charge you ridiculous subscription fees for substandard software. Keep your system software and apps updated, and take advantage of the built-in security options. With a little vigilance, you’ll be able to keep the majority of the internet’s detritus off your device.

• Triona Guidry is a computer specialist and freelance writer offering tech support and advice for consumers. For free weekly tech news and home computer help by email, subscribe to her Simple Tech Tips blog at