Five ways to keep your personal data safe from hackers
With a recent study revealing that an Apple Airdrop flaw leaves users vulnerable to hackers, and Android users warned about the ‘Flubot’ scam infecting devices with malware2, it is more important than ever that tech users are vigilant when it comes to protecting their devices.
However, new research reveals that nearly half (49%) of UK adults have not installed or didn't know whether their mobile phone has security software.
In the wrong hands, stolen data can be used by hackers for illegal activity such as applying for loans or credit cards under a victim’s name, or bank accounts being accessed and money withdrawn.
Be cautious of public Wi-Fi
Using public Wi-Fi is great for those who have a low data allowance, or are running out of mobile data. However, public networks often don’t provide a secure connection, making it easy for hackers to use them to access personal data.
Hackers targeting public Wi-Fi hotspots are able to use what is known as a ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack6, which is when a hacker intercepts financial information, passwords and log-in information through a public network.
Always avoid using mobile banking apps or making online purchases whilst logged onto a public Wi-Fi network. For those who do need to use public Wi-Fi, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app. A VPN can protect data from getting into the wrong hands by encrypting online data and keeping personal information secure when using a public Wi-Fi connection6.
Turn off ‘sharing’ settings when not in use
Smartphone features that share a location should be used with caution and always turned off when not in use. Features such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, location services, mobile data and Near Field Communication (NFC) are susceptible to hacking, especially Bluetooth location services as they transmit a device’s location and presence.
Hackers can easily get hold of personal information and data through features that mark a phone as ‘visible’5, so always make sure to disable such features when they are not needed.
Only download legitimate apps
Downloading illegitimate apps is another way to open your personal data up to hackers. Often, apps hosted on some websites or third-party app stores can contain malware and can access data once downloaded6. It’s recommended that users only download apps from the official app stores, so App Store for iOS users, Google Play for Android users or the AppGallery for Huawei owners.
Be wary of app permissions
When an app is first downloaded, it often asks for ‘permission’ to access certain features or information held on a mobile phone. From the camera roll, to your speaker, location or phone contact list, apps can ask for a range of permissions in order for certain functions to work.
Be cautious of what information an app is requesting access to and question whether the app actually needs that information. For example, a photo editing app doesn’t need contact list information in order to function correctly, so take the time to properly think about whether or not that information is needed7.
Viral video app, TikTok, came under fire last year for security issues in the US, with reports claiming that the Pentagon warned U.S. military personnel to delete TikTok from their phones, and India previously banned Tik-Tok amongst other apps, over security and privacy concerns10. So, it’s always important to review what permissions are being asked for by an app.
Avoid using auto-login
While it’s recommended to have a variety of passwords for online accounts rather than the same password, auto-login gives hackers easy access to personal data by simply opening up an app or webpage. For those likely to forget multiple passwords, note them down in a secure, password protected note on a phone, or in a notebook that is kept secure and stored away.
And it’s not just using your mobile phone that can open your personal data up to hackers. What happens if your mobile phone is lost or stolen? Insurance2go shares some useful tips for people who might find themselves in this scenario and want to keep their personal data safe:
Firstly, report the phone as missing to the network provider, who can suspend or disconnect the service to the phone. This can help stop any authorised use of the phone if it falls into the wrong hands.
If the mobile phone is known to be stolen, inform the police who will be able to provide a crime number, which can be used if the user needs to inform an insurance provider.
Most smartphones now have a built in ‘kill switch’, which can allow a user to remotely deactivate a device if it’s lost or stolen. In order to work, the feature needs to be enabled. For iPhone users, the ‘Activation Lock’ can be enabled within the ‘Find My’ app to help keep data safe. Firstly, go to the ‘Find My’ app > Tap the devices tab and choose which device is lost or stolen, then tap Activate under ‘Mark as Lost’ and follow the prompts on screen. Android users can enable the kill switch with ‘Find My Device’. Go to Settings > Google > Security, then turn on ‘Remotely locate this device’ and ‘Allow remote lock and erase’.
Finally, immediately change passwords for any accounts or apps that can be accessed on the mobile phone. Prioritise any important accounts first, such as online banking and other associated accounts.
Insurtechs are winning the race with legacy system companies
Nestled in its own place within the world of financial services, insurance is arguably more unpopular than retail banking.
That’s hardly surprising given that, from a customer service perspective, insurance is something of an off-kilter transaction. You pay a sizable premium in exchange for a service you hope you will never have to use. This image problem is exacerbated by ubiquitous tales of insurers not paying out when it is time to make a claim.
The insurance sector has long been due to an overhaul, and this is where the disruptive force of insurtech comes in - one of fintech’s most upwardly mobile subcategories. Accordingly, last year, insurtech in the UK alone attracted £262m in investment, a growth of 60% on 2019, according to Tech Nation. Insurtech’s momentous growth has been captured in a new report by The AI Journal exploring this burgeoning sector.
What exactly is insurtech?
Put simply, insurtech refers to technological innovations that seek to make insurance cheaper to buy and more efficient to use. In a similar vein to fintech, the large, established institutions have been dipping their toes into insurtech, but it’s the disruptors who are genuinely looking to shake up the status quo, diving into and exploiting those areas that traditionalists have little imperative to explore.
Examples are price comparison sites (one of the earliest forms of insurtech that was eventually snapped up by the insurers it initially sought to disrupt), claims software, customisable policies, or even smart-tech-enabled dynamic policies whose premiums can fluctuate depending on changing circumstances.
The latter, for instance, could use someone’s fitness tracker or smartwatch to monitor fitness levels, thus reducing the premium of a life insurance policy; or track a GPS system that records the location of a car and assesses risk levels accordingly.
Most consumers tend to shop around for their insurance needs and perhaps end up buying their contents insurance with one provider, their car insurance with someone else, and their pet insurance with yet another underwriter. Managing all these different policies, with their varying renewal dates and payment terms can be complex. This has led to the increase in apps that pull everything together.
More prosaically, insurtechs are developing AI that uses machine learning to act as an insurance broker, eliminating the need for a human intermediary and therefore offering more cost-effective and impartial advice.
Insurtechs and risk
But there are some obstacles in the way of insurtech’s continued evolution.
Insurance companies are averse to risk. Understandably so, as at the crux of the industry is the role of the actuary, whose job it is to analyse and measure the probability and risk of future events. So it’s little wonder that there’s a reluctance among the traditional players to welcome the disruption that insurtech brings.
Insurance is heavily regulated, a minefield of legality and labyrinthine jurisdiction, which means the idea of shaking it up can be anathema. And why would they, when their old-school business models are working perfectly fine?
There’s an understandable nervousness and unwillingness to work with startups, who themselves need to work with the bigger firms in order to underwrite risk.
While it seems like a catch-22 situation, there is growing, if cautious, interest from insurance companies, who can see the benefits of insurance with a friendlier face, innovative solutions, and a competitive edge through differentiation. As that tentativeness dissipates, the growth of insurtech will gather even more momentum.
Tom Allen's analysis is based on the findings of a new report on the fintech and insurtech industries produced by The AI Journal.