University staff and students depend heavily on mobile devices – smartphones, tablets and laptops.  Students take them to classes, use them for researching and writing assignments, email, social networking and entertainment.  Staff also often attend meetings or do marking, have teaching material and presentations. In short we take them with us everywhere we go and are used to accessing files and the web at a moment's notice


Whilst smart phones are relatively new, their adoption into daily life has been swift. At the time of writing despite the infancy of the technology although hackers and cybercriminals have not been slow to identify and exploit the weaknesses of early generation smart phone models.

As with desk-based computing, there is the risk from viruses, phishing, your private details being accessed including usernames and passwords stored on your device and malicious or fraudulent use of your data connection. It's therefore good practice to consider protecting yourself when you use your mobile or smart phone in the same way you should when using your desktop or laptop on the Internet.

Set a password! Again, it's about setting passwords: at the very least set your PIN or passcode on your handset - factory settings are widely know so change them straight away.

Lock it! Change your handset settings so it automatically locks if it hasn't been used for a couple of minutes.

Just say no! If any application you use or site your visit asks if you want to store your log-in details, the safe answer is 'No': those few seconds you save not typing them in make your details vulnerable if you phone is lost, stolen or hacked into.

Review and revise! Take a few minutes to think about personal information which might be gleaned by a quick read of your text messages and delete any that contain personal details. Also review your contacts lists and think about changing how you refer to the following: 'Mum', 'Home', 'Bank' (an additional bonus to the enterprising thief if your phone is stolen!).

Think! Never a bad thing in any situation: think carefully when downloading apps from the Internet. It's just like other software you might download so only download from reliable, trusted sites and always be vigilant for hoaxes, illegal sites and giving permission to download viruses or spyware.

Check it! As you would when using a laptop or PC, be vigilant when looking at websites: check the URL and make sure you're where you want to be, not on a rogue version and always be cautious about requests to run or install software.

Bank with caution! Don't use your smart phone to carry out financial transactions (either banking or payment) in public areas: if you're not using a secure Wi-Fi connection your information is accessible as it transfers via the Wi-Fi signal, or you could be 'high-jacked' and re-directed to a fraudulent or infected website.

Do you really need all that? If you synchronize your smart phone with a home or work computer, only pull across data that you absolutely need. Make sure you know exactly what is held on your phone and think about the 'worst case scenario': ask yourself, if it were lost what damage could be done if the information got into the wrong hands and taking that into consideration do you really need it on your phone? You can alter your synchronisation settings to customise what information is transferred.

Your pocket PC! It's less a phone and more a computer, so treat it as such and use the same kind of security good practice you would on your PC or laptop: passwords: cautious use of the internet and open networks, don't click on links in texts or emails from people you don't know and don't give out personal details to anyone!

Clear it out! If you pass your phone on or give it to a charity, delete all your information, restore it to its factory settings and wipe any memory cards.

Be fussy when you pair! If you have a Bluetooth enabled device make sure that you only pair (link) it with devices you know: don't pair devices in public areas, restrict access to known devices and don't leave your device 'discoverable'. If you're not using the Bluetooth, turn it off.


Put a password on it! If it has password protection, use it. Many of these devices have the option to use smart cards, cryptographic tokens and finger print recognition as well as much stronger authentication, so make use these if they are available.

Travel light! Don't carry more data than you really need on your device. If you synchronise it with a work or home PC consider the 'worst case scenario' (if the information on it got into the wrong hands) to help you decide if you really need the information on there.

Back it up! If you do synchronise with a PC, back up your data each time or back it up to a memory card regularly.

Delete the folder marked 'Passwords'! Don't save passwords on your device.

Encrypt if you can! Encrypt your data.

Update it! Keep on top of the software updates.

Use protection! Install anti-virus software (F-Secure and Symantec offer mobile options).

Go with who you know! Only use trusted networks (ideally a VPN or an encrypted Wi-Fi network).

Be fussy when you pair! Use Bluetooth carefully, only pair with trusted devices.

There are services available which allow you to remotely lock or wipe a device if it's lost or stolen, whilst they may incur a charge it's worth considering for peace of mind.


Apple Macs are probably still less vulnerable to attack by malware than Windows PCs. Many people believe that Macs are immune to viruses and spyware, but this is certainly not the case. As with all technologies, as its popularity increases, the more attractive a target it becomes. No matter which platform you use, the fundamental advice remains the same.

  • Keep the operating system up to date
  • Install anti-virus software and keep it up to date
  • Turn on the firewall
  • Lock the screen when not in use
  • Don't leave it unattended
  • remove files and software you no longer need. It will help keep the machine running smoothly and reduce the damage if the worst happens