Personal Finance: Ask the Experts

Get advice on money matters from The Bee's Claudia Buck and a panel of local experts

September 10, 2012
How to prevent your cellphone from getting hacked

In a recent Sunday column, we talked about how to protect yourself against online I.D. theft.

Several readers emailed us, asking for more details on how to protect their mobile phones. They're wise to ask: Most people don't even realize their mobile phones can be just as vulnerable as their home computer, said Robert Siciliano, online computer security expert with McAfee. "There are thousands of viruses targeting mobile phones and millions targeting PCs," he noted in an email.

Siciliano said the best defense: Getting regular security updates to your mobile phone's operating system. These so-called "security patches" are issued by manufacturers to thwart the bad guys.

"Just like you do routine maintenance on your car, you need to schedule routine security updates for your phone," said Siciliano. How often? Quarterly, at a minimum.

How do you get your phone's updated security patch? Because every phone is different in how it updates its operating system, Siciliano recommends doing a Google search. Type in "Update Operating System" and the name of your phone. Or look in your phone's user manual.

His 2nd tip: Install anti-virus software on your phone. If you Google search for "Anti-Virus" for the name/make/model of your phone, you'll find vendors who offer anti-virus protection. Among some of the top-rated: Bullguard Mobile Security, Lookout Premium and McAfee Mobile Security.

Another 3rd line of defense: Always use a password on your cellphone.

Other cellphone security tips from
--Create a strong, hard-to-guess password on your cellphone (letters, numbers and at least 1 symbol).
--Use settings that automatically shut down your phone after so many minutes of inactivity.
--Make a pen-and-paper physical list of everything that's on your smart phone (accounts, documents, apps, etc.) in case it's lost or stolen.
--Don't open unfamiliar texts, emails or attachments.
--Be cautious of the kinds of apps you download.
--If you do mobile banking on your phone, be sure your data is encrypted and that you can delete any stored data, such as check images. You should also disable any features that automatically log into your online banking account every time your phone is turned on.

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Meet Our Financial Experts

Claudia Buck

Claudia Buck is The Sacramento Bee's personal finance columnist. Read all her columns here. Contact her at

Terri Carpenter

Terri Carpenter offers advice on job hunting, retraining and career counseling. Carpenter works at Sacramento Works Inc., the career and job training arm of the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA). With 15 years in the field, she has hands-on experience with everyone from first-time job seekers to career professionals seeking advice after a layoff or looking for a mid-career change. Ask her a question.

Carlena Tapella

Carlena Tapella is a partner in the law firm of Webb & Tapella Law Corp. in Sacramento. The firm specializes in estate planning and probate, such as estates, trusts, conservatorships and litigation. She is a past president of the Sacramento County Bar Association's Estate Planning & Probate Section. Ask her a question.

Kimberly Foss

Kimberly Foss, certified financial planner, is the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville. With nearly 30 years in the financial industry, her clients include women in transition, small business owners, retirees and "pre-retirees." Ask her a question.

Jesse Weller

Gregory Burke, a CPA and tax expert with John Waddell & Co. in Sacramento since 1984, worked as an IRS tax auditor for six years. He’s a past chairman of the California Society of CPAs. Ask him a question.

Daniel Tahara

Daniel Tahara takes your questions about California taxes. Tahara, a spokesman for the state Franchise Tax Board, has 10 years of experience as a tax auditor. Ask him a question.

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