Don’t let the bad guys score: Get your defenses ready

Forget about the 24 teams fighting it out in the European soccer championship or even the 11 players on your team, weaving down the field and avoiding defenders as they near the goal. The real target is you and your smartphone – and the phones of the millions of other spectators crowding stadiums in Europe.

The question is whether you can play an effective defensive game – and get the bad guys carded before they really foul up your life as they steal your identity or fill your phone with adware and the latest malware.

Smartphones are almost as much of a football match as the football itself. The football only gets kicked around as it goes from Goal A to Goal B. But a smartphone has a many more tasks – and risks – placed in front of it. It’s used to send or receive messages when a team scores, take photos, check results from other matches, confirm restaurant reservations, place bets, and navigate you around a city teeming with excited sports fans.

To do that affordably, you are on the lookout for any available WiFi network. While the EU may have reduced the costs of roaming and the high prices of data while abroad, nothing beats scoring a free Wi-Fi connection.

Heading straight for this goal of any open, unprotected WiFi connection does bring certain risks: Who are you hooking up with? How much of your private information are you willing to give them? How protected are you against catching something unpleasant from them? Just remember, most WiFi communication is not encrypted and is easily readable by other people.

Here are five user tips:

  1. Don’t be promiscuous. Turn off the automatic connection capability for Bluetooth or WiFi as this is an open door to attackers. This makes you vulnerable to spoofed WiFi connections which can use known network names as a lure.
  2. Beware of an ambush. That open WiFi network might not be what it looks like. The bad guys are known to deliberately leave their WiFi networks open to harvest data – like passwords and personal data – from careless players.
  3. Read the fine print. Before logging into those free WiFi networks, take a look at the Terms and Conditions to see what they can do with your contact information. Adding your email address or phone number can set you up to receive a ton of spam mail. You might want to have a dummy email account set up just for this purpose.
  4. Look out for your privates (information). Avoid sending sensitive information like bank account details, credit cards, or PayPal info over open WiFi connections. In addition to being careful about the login data you’ve entered(user name and passwords), don’t forget to log out of the website after finishing your business.
  5. Do it securely. Use a Virtual Private Network such as the Phantom VPN to put your online communication into an encrypted “envelope” for secure communication. Even if the bad guys are trying to listen at the network router level, this shuts them out from the conversation. Install a VPN app: http://blog.avira.com/new-avira-phantom-vpn/

Go ahead, be a fan – and say yes to using your smartphone. Just know how to safely and securely say yes – and enjoy both the game and the use of your smartphone.

This post is also available in: German

As a PR Consultant and journalist, Frink has covered IT security issues for a number of security software firms, as well as provided reviews and insight on the beer and automotive industries (but usually not at the same time). Otherwise, he’s known for making a great bowl of popcorn and extraordinary messes in a kitchen.