December 17, 2012 - 3:33 pm

More than 20 million Americans will unwrap a new mobile device this holiday season, but most smartphone users admit they don’t know how to protect themselves from mobile security threats. With mobile cyber attacks increasing every year (threats increased 367% in 2011), it’s important that consumers stay protected against growing risks such as viruses, malicious apps, and mobile device theft.

To assist the more than 120 million American smartphone owners, today the FCC launched the Smartphone Security Checker, an online tool to arm consumers with security steps customized by mobile operating system. The tool is the result of a public-private partnership between government experts, smartphone developers, and private IT and security companies. Partners include DHS, NCSA, FTC, CTIA, Lookout, BlackBerry, Chertoff Group, Sophos, McAfee, Symantec, and others. The smartphone Security Checker is available at www.fcc.gov/smartphone-security.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “With less than half of smartphone owners using passwords to protect their devices, this new tool will be of particular value to millions of Americans. The holiday gift-giving season is a perfect time to remind consumers to take simple steps, like setting a password, to protect themselves from mobile security threats.”

To use the tool, a consumer first selects their mobile-OS (Apple iOS, Android, BlackBerry, or Windows) and then follows 10 customized steps and tips to help protect their device. The Smartphone Security Checker features best practices on how to set pins and passwords, where to find security apps, how to enable remote locating and data wiping, and how to backup and secure your data in case your device is lost or stolen. There is also information on how to safely use public Wi-Fi networks and what steps to take if your phone is stolen (hint: report it stolen by calling your mobile carrier and by notifying the police).

As the processing power and amount of sensitive data stored on smartphones increases, it’s important for consumers to treat mobile devices with the same precautions as computers. The FCC, working with government and the private sector, is committed to furthering the message of the national cybersecurity awareness campaign across all computing platforms.  When we go online, we must all: Stop. Think. Connect.