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NSA Tip: Keeping Your Mobile Devices Safe

Updated 1-22-20. Smartphones and tablets have become one of the most important pieces of equipment for mobile Notaries. They keep you connected to clients, help you arrange appointments, allow you to download instructions and documents and so much more.

But many people don’t realize that these devices come with similar security risks as computers. Because you’re tasked with handling sensitive consumer data, a security breach can cause serious problems for your clients, borrowers and you.

With government agencies, the mortgage industry and consumers alike demanding that you keep personal financial information secure, it’s imperative that you ensure your mobile devices are always safe.

Common Types of Mobile Device Threats

Like PCs, mobile devices can be susceptible to several types of threats. For example, phishing — which involves tricking people into entering passwords, usernames, or credit card information on a website that appears to be legitimate — commonly occurs through links sent in text messages. In addition, like with email, some of these links are sent by hackers in order to automatically infect a device with viruses, Trojans, or malware that can track what you’re doing to get your information. In the worst case scenario, a hacker can completely take over your phone or tablet after you click a link.

Another common way hackers can gain access to your mobile devices is when you connect to unsecure Wi-Fi networks. Although these networks can help you save on data and make it easier to work when you’re out and about, they also make it much easier for hackers to access your personal information — as well as your clients’ information.

Oddly enough, however, one of the most common threats to mobile devices actually has nothing to do with technology at all. In many cases, the biggest threat to a mobile device is theft, so leaving your device unattended in public exponentially increases the likelihood of someone gaining access to everything you have stored on it.

Protecting Mobile Devices From Threats

Just as you would take steps to protect your computer, there are several things you can do to protect your cell phones and tablets from various threats. The following are some easy-to-implement steps that will go a long way toward keeping the information on your mobile devices safe.

Don’t automatically connect to hotspots. Although it’s convenient to have your phone or tablet automatically connect to hotspots, the device doesn’t know if it’s a trusted Wi-Fi connection —  or even a legitimate one. It’s far too easy for hackers to create fake hotspots that appear to be the connection to your local coffee shop or mall, so set up your device to connect manually so you can verify what you’re connecting to.

Do install protective software. Just as with a computer, antivirus software can protect your mobile devices from viruses, spyware and malware as well as remove these threats if they’re found on your device. When choosing a program, according to Robert Siciliano, CEO of, it’s best to get one that is not offered for free.

“If you are handling treasure troves of sensitive data and you are installing free antivirus, there’s a disparity there,” he said. “You wouldn’t want your bank to run free antivirus on their network.”

It’s also a good idea to download an app that allows you to locate your phone and wipe it clean if it’s lost or stolen.

Don’t use public charging stations. “It’s best not to go into any of these public charging stations because it’s an easy way for a hacker to infect devices locally through the USB hub,” said Joe Silverman, CEO of IT security firm New York Computer Help.   

Do keep your device with you. If you’re working at a coffee shop, you may think it’s safe to leave your phone or tablet unattended for the few minutes it takes to refill your cappuccino, but that is more than enough time for someone to steal your device — or even just look through it to get personal information.

Don’t forget to password protect your devices. You wouldn’t leave the door to your house or car wide open to let just anyone get behind the wheel. You should also be as vigilant about protecting the invaluable information stored on your mobile device. Creating a password for your phone or tablet that is at least six digits long will make it difficult to crack in the event someone does get a hold of it.  

Do consider getting a separate device for work. If you’re using your mobile devices for both business and pleasure, it may be a good idea to get a separate phone or tablet to use solely for work.

“If you’re using your phone for your work purposes, separate it from your private life,” said Richard Lowe, author of Safe Computing is like Safe Sex. “People tend to be a lot more sloppy about security with their personal phone than with their work phone, so if you can, get a cell phone just for work, and don’t install very much on it.”

Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer from San Francisco.




Add your comment

Sandra Aultman

27 Jan 2020

don't understand why this is needed

27 Jan 2020

I am a new Notary Signing Agent. I have not as yet bought a separate phone, I have bought an encrypted email account, but am lost as to how to best protect my future clients' documents. Which phone, email, apps and method for encryption work best. Are their books or articles newer than 2 years old you could recommend. Thank you for your help.

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