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According to global IT security firm Norton, cyber crime (crimes committed on the internet) cost the global economy US$113 billion last year. It’s hard to tell what the real number is – competitors Kaspersky reckon it’s ‘many more times than US$100 billion’ (but it’s not as if cyber crooks advertise their earnings) – but one thing’s for sure: if you use the internet, you’re at risk.

Trouble is, many mobile users don’t know about the risks, or about how to stay safe. Norton’s 2013 Cybercrime Report revealed that 28% of South Africans surveyed weren’t aware that security solutions even exist for mobile devices. Also, 56% of working adults said they use their personal device for both work and play, 48% store personal information on their work device, and 20% let their children play, download and shop off work devices. When your child picks up your phone or tablet there’s a very real chance that they’re putting your personal data, your work secrets, and their own safety at risk. 

Set parental controls

Vodacom offers a free opt-in/ opt-out service to help you protect your children from illegal and inappropriate adult content like gambling or violent and sexually based material. Vodacom’s Contract Protector lets you block adult content from being accessed through a cellphone on the Vodacom network. Enabling Vodacom Parental Control is easy: just dial *135*123# from your cellphone.

To unblock it, you’ll need to visit your nearest service provider and provide your ID to prove, in person, that you’re older than 18. 

Set a strong password

If you’re still trying to get by on p@ssword123, you’re asking for trouble. Follow these three basic rules for creating a strong password that hackers and pickpockets won’t be able to crack:

  • Don’t use personal information. Your birthday (which you’re probably already advertising on Facebook) is an easy four- or eight-digit code to remember, but also an easy code to crack.
  • Don’t use real words. According to IT security firm Norton, password cracking tools tend to be based on words that are in the dictionary. So ‘password’ is weak, but ‘1p@55w0rd2’ is better.
  • Do use mixed characters. Combine upper case, lower case, numbers and special characters to make your password uncrackable. Something like ‘V0d#c0M’ is easy enough to remember, but almost impossible to crack. 

Locate your phone with Look 4 Me 

Vodacom offers a handy service for locating your lost cellphone – and for checking on the whereabouts of your child or loved one.

The Vodacom Look 4 Me service allows you to track another person’s location (with their permission, of course) by using their mobile phone – which, if they’re like any other teenager, they’ll always have with them.

Unlike Apple’s ‘Find my iPad’ service (which requires the device to be in a Wi-Fi zone), Look 4 Me uses cellphone towers to triangulate the phone’s location and figure out where the phone – and your loved one – is. 

 

Be smart about monitoring apps

Yes, you can install apps that will let you monitor exactly what your child gets up to on his or her cellphone. My Mobile Watchdog (or ‘Best Parental Controls Android’) is an Android app that lets you do just that, at a cost of US$4,95 a month. But – as the app reviews will tell you – this might not be your best approach. If you share the phone with your child it’s likely to lock you out of your own apps. It’s also a good idea to have a frank discussion with your child about apps beforehand. 

Limit in-app purchases

If other people – specifically your kids – use your phone or tablet, you’ll want to limit their access to in-app purchases. After all, nobody likes getting a R100 bill for bonus coins in Subway Surfers... and nobody likes paying for apps that a small child bought by accident after tapping on an in-app advertisement. 

Here’s how to do limit in-app purchases on Apple (iOS), Android and Windows Phone devices: 

IOS
1. Open Settings and select General.
2. Scroll down and select Restrictions.
3. Enable Restrictions and set a password. 
4. Enter the password twice, then select Allowed Content and put the In-App Purchases slider in the Off position.

ANDROID
1. Access the Google Play Store and select Settings.
2. Go to User Controls and tap on ‘Require password for purchases’.
3. Select the option you prefer.

WINDOWS
1. At Start, select Kid’s Corner and Next.
2. Select Games, Music, Videos and/or Apps, then tap Done and Next.
3. If you don’t already have a lock screen password, set one now, and then tap Finish. 

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