By: Brenda Neugent
Like Boy Scouts everywhere, smart phone users will always be prepared in an emergency, since their devices have the ability to ensure that all of their health information can be accessed in an instant.
However, there are risks to having all that personal stuff so easily accessible.
That’s why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has put together a list of guidelines to keep personal information safe.
“Anyone with a mobile device can use our resources, available online. Everyone can use the materials to emulate good privacy and security practices,” said Kathryn Marchesini of the department’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
The office’s suggestions include:
- Use a password or other user authentication. Using a password or PIN number will make it harder for unauthorized people to access your phone if you lose it.
- Install and enable encryption. Encryption adds an extra layer of protection. If your smart phone or mobile device doesn’t have built-in capabilities, encryption tools are available to purchase and install.
- Install and activate remote wiping and/or remote disabling. If you lose your device, you don’t want the person who finds it to be able to find out everything about you. Remote wiping will allow you to delete stored data if your device is lost or stolen, while remote disabling allows you to lock information until your device is retrieved.
- Disable and do not install or use file sharing applications. File sharing makes it easier for unauthorized users to access your device with you none the wiser. Disable the application to reduce the risk of strangers knowing your secrets.
- Install and enable a firewall. Just like on your PC, a firewall is a must. Firewalls are designed to stop incoming and outgoing connection attempts, blocking unauthorized users from accessing your mobile device.
- Install and enable security software. Security software can protect your device against viruses, spyware, or malware attacks.
- Keep your security software up to date. Staying on top of the latest in security software will ensure that your device is protected from the most current security breaches.
- Research mobile applications before downloading. It may seem like an app you can’t live without, but check it out first before you download it. Make sure it does only what it says it does, and doesn’t have any unsavory tricks hidden up its sleeve.
- Maintain physical control. By keeping a close eye on your device, it will be less likely to be stolen or tampered with.
- Use adequate security to send or receive health information over public Wi-Fi networks. If you’re at an Internet café, make sure you’re protected from unauthorized users when sending or receiving private, personal information by using encrypted, secure connections.
- Delete all stored health information before discarding or reusing the mobile device. Wipe your device clean, especially if you plan to recycle it. You want to be sure that there’s no personal information remaining on your phone or device. Visit www.healthit.gov for more information.