FCC's free 'checker' helps users secure smart phones

The site, developed with a host of public- and private-sector input, offers OS-specific advice on keeping devices secure.

Mobile devices are always susceptible to security threats, simply by virtue of being mobile devices connected to the Internet. An estimated 20 million new smart-phones will be added to the mix by virtue of holiday gifts, and users will only make themselves vulnerable to cyberattacks if their defenses are not prepared.

So the Federal Communications Commission, partnering with many public- and private-sector mobile security experts, has released the Smartphone Security Checker. You tell it what OS you have (Android, Apple iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile), and the site will return a 10-step checklist specific to that OS of things you need to do to help protect your device.

The checker includes advice on such best practices as pins and passwords, security apps, remote locating and data wiping, backing up and securing data in the event a device is lost or stolen, and how to use public WiFi networks safely.

“With less than half of smartphone owners using passwords to protect their devices, this new tool will be of particular value to millions of Americans,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in an FCC release. “The holiday gift-giving season is a perfect time to remind consumers to take simple steps, like setting a password, to protect themselves from mobile security threats,” he added.

The FCC’s partners in this endeavor include people from the Homeland Security Department, National Cyber Security Alliance, Federal Trade Commission, CTIA, Lookout, BlackBerry, Chertoff Group, Sophos, McAfee, Symantec and others.

This is definitely an “all hands on deck” effort — and good advice for the whole year, not just the holiday season. Now all we need to do is rely upon the average user’s ability to take the initiative and follow the simple steps to make themselves secure. So in other words, we are doomed.

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