Here’s How Multi-Factor Authentication Will Save Your Skin

Keeping track of multiple, strong passwords can be a real chore – especially if you have several emails, bank accounts, and other services to access on a daily basis. It’s not surprising that adding two-factor (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) can feel like an extra annoyance, regardless of whether you’re protecting sensitive files.

But you know what’s worse than a nuisance that lasts a few seconds? Well, we’ve actually rounded up several of them. First off, let’s look at the sheer number of ways hackers can steal your password(s).

Password Theft Is Evolving

Sure, 80% of passwords are still terrible according to a Verizon data breach report. The fact that people use weak passwords or re-use the same one across multiple accounts certainly helps make the job easier for hackers.

But besides that, computing power has also accelerated exponentially, making brute force attacks much stronger than even a few years ago. And when service providers have brute force protections in place, there’s always the following:

  • Keylogging – the victim’s device is usually compromised by malware that logs and sends keystrokes back to the cyber criminals, who inevitably find password and login information among the data they collect. Hardware keyloggers are also available; usually fitted to public computers, waiting for someone to log in real quick
  • Phishing – hackers create pages that mimic legitimate services (banks, PayPal, etc.), then use email and other means to convince users that they need to “log in to update some information,” or similar trickery. Unwary victims end up handing over their account data on a silver platter 
  • Pharming – phishing on a wider scale, and without requiring a lure in the form of an email, SMS, and so on. Involves the use of malware to send victims to those fake websites instead

Data Breaches Happen More Often

It seems like you can’t wake up these days without hearing about some data breach affecting a major company – or an entire government. It’s estimated that over 4 billion records were exposed in the first half of 2019 alone.

The fact of the matter is that more companies and institutions than ever work with your personal data. It’s no longer a question of “if” but “when” yours gets out there as well. And unlike the methods described in the previous section, you don’t have much control over data breaches.

So now that you’ve seen just a few ways hackers can gain access to your accounts – what headaches can MFA help you avoid?

Rush to Reset

Let’s be honest here. Having to reset ALL your passwords because your email’s been compromised is probably the worst way you could spend your day. Even when the exposed account is something inessential (like this MyFitnessPal case) – if you happen to re-use passwords, hackers will use that to their advantage.

Of course, sitting around for hours, resetting passwords across services is actually a best case scenario. If you don’t manage to react in time, you end up in the following cases.

Waiting on Banks and Credit Companies

Have you ever had to deal with bank or credit card company paperwork? Employees passing you on to someone else, being put on hold multiple times – to many of you, this bureaucratic inefficiency will sound familiar.

Now, imagine you’re racing against the clock. A hacker managed to get a hold of your home banking info and your money’s all gone. You call your bank to report this activity, but you’re just met with a robotic voice telling you to wait, “someone will be with you shortly.”

Unfortunately, this happens more often than you’d think. In the UK, for example, seven out of the top 12 online banking services don’t even offer 2FA to their users – leaving them stuck in situations such as the one above.

Avoid Identity Theft

What’s worse than having all your money stolen? Cybercriminals using your personal information to commit fraud – tax, medical insurance, you name it. Not only can they leave you penniless, but also deal great damage to your credit scores and record in general.

That and getting the authorities involved (if recovery is still possible at that point) will leave you wasting time, money, and brain cells on something easily avoidable.

What You Can Do

We mentioned in the beginning that maintaining so many passwords for daily use can be a nightmare. According to a report, the average business employee has to keep track of a whopping 191 passwords. Any one of those can be the weakest link to find out the rest of them.

Fortunately, that process doesn’t need to be a pain. You can create and store strong, randomized passwords offline using KeePass – the gold standard for password managers.

The software is free and open-source (FOSS), meaning anybody online can take a peek at the code and see if it delivers on its promises of security. Tech experts can also provide feedback to patch up any vulnerability as soon as possible. Passwords are stored on your device in an encrypted form and kept away from online cloud storage as this would create another data breach point.

Is SMS 2FA Enough?

Now, the other thing you can do (if it wasn’t obvious already) is to enable text-based authentication on your main accounts, at the very least. The thing is, SMS 2FA is also vulnerable to certain attacks. For example, phone porting – criminals impersonating you and switching your phone number to another carrier. Any authentication tokens you’d get are instead received by the criminal’s phone.

Still, it’s much better than no 2FA at all. A stronger method would be to use an authenticator app (such as Google Authenticator, Authy, etc.) that generates authentication codes on your phone instead of relying on texts.

If you want to go even further, there are hardware tokens that you can insert in your USB port (or tap it against your phone) as a literal “authentication key.” A great way to secure your data and feel like James Bond doing it.

We hope you find this information helpful, and have started your plan for protecting your information. We recommend setting aside time to strategically organize your passwords and authentication methods – no need to frantically try to address all of this information, or you may miss something important. Take your time doing so, and you will be set up for success. For more in depth information, and the best reads out there about reviews, tips and suggestions on online security feel free to visit ProPrivacy.

Accessibility for All: Tips & Tricks for a Better Cell Phone Experience

While specifics may differ by cell phone, accessibility settings can help you create a better cell phone experience. Simple things – like increasing your font size, softening your backlight, or tweaking your screen’s touch sensitivity – will customize your phone and help resolve small frustrations. Everyone has different needs. Here are a few of our favorite tricks!

Increase Your Font 

Small fonts can be challenging. Instead of straining to read the fine print, try changing your phone’s default font to a larger size. Increasing font size leads to less eye strain and a better overall reading experience. Plus, changing your default setting ensures you don’t need to fiddle with your phone every time a new article pops up. Another quick tip? Snap a photo of a hard to read document and use your phone as a magnifying glass!

Tweak Your Screen Sensitivity

Whether you’ve had your screen replaced, you need an adjustment to accommodate touch, or your phone is just not as responsive as it used to be, increasing your screen’s sensitivity is an easy first step. Test different sensitivity levels to find which setting you prefer for increased responsiveness. For Samsung users, the “Universal Switch” allows you to control your phone with custom switches and the “Assistant” menu allows you to utilize functions for assisted dexterity. For Motorola users – read more about how to change the Touch Delay feature.

Change Your Display 

While increasing your font size makes your text documents larger, increasing your display size makes everything larger. Display settings change the overall scale of your phone. Similar to adjusting the resolution on your computer screen, altering this accessibility setting will magnify the size of what you see on your screen. 

Protect Your Eyes

Frequent phone use and screen time can cause eye strain, and can even impact the quality of your sleep. Changing your phone’s backlight settings softens the day-to-day impact on your eyes and reduces eye fatigue. Additional steps can be found in your accessibility settings for Dark Mode. Dark Mode inverts the colors of your screen, changing the background from white to black. This color shift makes certain texts easier to read in brighter lights. For Android users, simply select the “Invert Colors” in your phone’s display settings. For Samsung users, this setting is labeled “Negative Colors.” Motorola user? Deselect “Automatic Brightness” to set a new screen level. 

Customize Your Captions

Apps are another way to contribute to your phone’s accessibility functions. Google’s Live Transcribe captions conversations in live time. Whether you’re having a chat in a room with lots of ambient noise, or listening to a presentation you can’t quite hear, apps like these provide helpful closed captioning in noisy environments. 

Additional questions on accessibility features and How To’s? Check out our help list here!

4 Common Mobile Phone Scams & How to Avoid Them

Phone scams can be a bit unnerving to think about. When it comes to keeping your personal information protected and avoiding those scammers we all know are out there. Being mindful of these common mobile phone scams can be easier than you think. We’ve compiled a list of phone scams to be aware of, and how to avoid them.

Common Mobile Phone Scams:

 1. Stolen Phone

Of course, you cannot control if your phone gets stolen, but it’s wise to be prepared if the situation were to ever arise. Often times we keep more personal information on our phones than we realize. Because of this, scammers could have quick access to a lot of the things you want to keep protected. To avoid this, consider taking a few of these proactive steps:

  • Use a unique passcode on your phone.
  • Know what type of “Find My Phone” feature your phone has & how to use it.
    Find out more information on how to utilize this feature on your Android phone here.
  • Do a rundown of any sensitive information you may have on your phone. Consider removing vital information or utilizing apps that can keep it secure.

2. Text Scams

Ever gotten that random text you just weren’t sure about? Better to leave it alone and delete it if it seems fishy in any way. A common text scam can be someone posing as your bank, and notifying you that fraudulent activity may have occurred on your account.

They want to get your attention quickly so you act fast. We advise you pull back the reins to assess the situation before making any moves.

 

These scammers and others like them may give you a link to click or some phrase to text back with. Do not follow these instructions and contact your bank directly to confirm the legitimacy of this communication.

3. One Ring Scam

Sometimes you’ll get that suspicious phone call that only rings once. The strange call was likely intentional to get your attention and make you curious to call that number back. This number may proceed to leave you a voicemail prompting you to call them back.

Best next step? You guessed it! Don’t call them back. Better to make this judgment call and protect your information.

Phones CTA - Native

4. Unfamiliar Callers

This may be one of the most common phone scams everyone experiences. In this age of spam calls, it’s best to be more cautious than not when that mysterious number pops up on your phone. If you do happen to answer one of these unfamiliar calls be aware of what the caller is asking you.

Do not give out personal information over the phone if you are not confident about who you are speaking with.

 

Scammers now have the ability to mimic your area code and the first 3 digits of your phone number, making answering that call all the more enticing. Resist the urge to do so!

If you feel more comfortable with answering those random phones calls just in case it may be someone you know, that’s totally fine. Perhaps you’re waiting for a call from your doctor’s office, or from the mechanic.

Here at Republic we’ve been building and testing solutions for unwanted calls.  With more unwanted phone calls coming in by the day we’ve built a spam blocking feature you can manage right from your device. To learn how you can better utilize this feature on your Republic Wireless phone visit our forums.

Have you run into any phone scams? If so how did you handle it?

To find the latest Android phones with top security features like fingerprint sensors to lock your device click the button below.

Shop phones

10 Ways to Avoid a Broken Phone

I have been a member of the Republic Wireless Support team for four years. Over these years at Republic, thanks to my endless dinner time product promotion, I have successfully converted my family and friends to use Republic Wireless devices.

The problem with having friends and family as customers is that when they break their phones, they expect me to magically have replacements sitting on my desk. But I believe in the old saying “ teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime” So I’ve outlined the tips I shared with my family for all of you.


Let’s start out with the top 3 ways people break their phones:
1. Dropping it on a hard surface
2. Getting it wet
3. Sitting on it

Looking over that list, we’ll start out with tips on how to protect the outside of your device.

1. Keep it clean

You bought a case. Great, you’re on the right track. Now you need to be aware of the dirt, dust, and moisture that can get trapped in your case. From time to time, you will need to remove your case and clean both your case and your phone. A good time to do this would be after a trip to the beach or pool, an awesome camping adventure, or a sweaty run. You can clean your phone and case by simply wiping and drying it (air drying works best). You can also use a toothbrush (clean) to gently clear debris from any port.

2. Carry it safely

Tight jeans with small pockets seem like a secure place to put your phone. Just remember, the pressure on your phone from those tight pockets intensifies when you move which can, and will, cause the screen to break. Also, forgetting to remove your phone from your back pocket before you sit down could result in a broken device. I would suggest putting your phone, all by its lonesome, in a dedicated front pocket. Keeping your phone and keys in opposite pockets will prevent unwanted scratches and cracks. Ladies, instead of just putting your phone in the main “anything goes here area” of your purse try putting your phone in a side pocket.

3. Buy a case

Seems simple, but a case and screen protector are the cornerstones to ensuring a long life for your device. A good case will protect your device from normal drops, scratches, spills, and maybe even zombie hordes.

4. Avoid extreme temperatures

Extreme temperatures can send your device to the recycling bin quickly with Screen issues, Internal component failure, and even Battery death. For this reason, try not to expose your device to temperatures less than freezing or above 95°F.  Something as simple as leaving your phone on the seat of your car on a hot day could expose your phone to temperatures upward to 200°F – causing all kinds of damage.  If you have to take your phone to the beach or pool remember to keep it in the shade, preferably in a cool spot with air flow.

5. Protect the inside

Let me be forward, using your device in the bathroom is just asking for a water-soaked device, and I’m not just talking about phones dropped in water aka the sink, bathtub, or toilet. Steam is a smartphone killer. The hot water you use every day in the bathroom produces steam. Steam seeps into the device allowing moisture into the heart of your phone. Over time this moisture could short-circuit the hardware inside your phone.

Protecting your device doesn’t just mean maintaining its outward appearance. Even if your phone is in perfect physical condition, it could be rendered unusable if the Android OS (Operating System) isn’t also protected from damage. Over time, Android users find that their phones tend to be less zippy than they used to be, apps don’t open as quickly, screens scroll in slow motion, and even web pages take longer to load. If you ignore these signs, eventually your device will slow down to a snail’s pace, becoming unusable. No worries, by following a few simple tips you can ensure that your device runs faster and smoother for longer.

6. Update apps

Make sure to regularly update your apps from the Google Play Store. These updates contain new features and bug fixes for any identified issues. Apply the updates regularly and your phone will perform optimally.

7. Free up space

Pay attention to your available internal storage.  Your device requires some of its internal storage to operate, so filling it up will cause your device to run slowly or even fail to function.  A good rule is to never use more than 90% of your device’s total internal storage. Also, once your device gets really low on internal storage it will stop syncing emails and app updates via the PlayStore. Below are some tips that should help prevent this issue from becoming an issue.

  • Move photos, music, and video files to either an external memory card (if your device has a memory card slot) or save them in the cloud using services such as Google Drive or Dropbox.
  • Remove unused apps for additional storage.
  • Clearing the Cache. This will remove temporary files from your phone but will not delete your files or setting.

8. Reboot weekly

As much as we rely on our smartphones for almost everything these days, keeping your phone ON all the time is a bad thing. Constantly having your phone powered on overexerts its resources and could result in your phone becoming sluggish. To prevent this from happening, make sure to reboot your device at least once a week.  This will ensure your caches are cleared and apps restarted properly. To simplify it, you know that feeling you get after a good night’s sleep?  Your phone feels the same way after a reboot. Shutting down the device on a regular basis will also help extend the life of your device.

9. Keep the phone out of harm’s way

Another way to improve the life of your device is to keep your phone out of the way of life’s crazy mishaps. You can do this by using more Bluetooth. Using Bluetooth allows you to use the awesome features of your device without having it in potentially dangerous situations.

Using Bluetooth headphones while working out allows you to access music and take calls without the chance of dropping and breaking your device and without continued exposure to sweat and moisture.

10. Use companion devices

While at the beach or pool try bringing along a Bluetooth speaker. This will allow you to stream your music without putting your phone in danger. Remember to keep your device out of direct sunlight and away from water.

The more you handle your device the greater the chance you mishandle it by maybe dropping it or putting it in situations that are less than ideal. A smartwatch allows you to put your phone in a safe location such a gym bag, purse, or even just docked on your desk while still allowing you to stay connected.

A smartwatch notifies you of incoming calls, texts, emails and all of your super important social media notifications from apps like facebook, twitter, and Instagram just to name a few. In addition, smartwatches will send you calendar reminders, events, and alarms just like your phone would. You can even access your phone like a remote enabling you to access and play music, use google search, and much much more. I recommend the Moto 360 but there are tons of options and flavors out there for everyone.

I hope that you have found our tips and tricks for getting the longest life out of your device useful. Before I go I would like to leave you with a few bonus tips.


Bonus Tips:

  • If your smartphone happens to be exposed to the elements such as sunlight and overheating, water or freezing temperatures, the best thing to do is turn the device off for an extended amount of time (Normally 24 hours) and allow it to cool down, warm up or dry off. This will help prevent additional damage to your device that might occur during your next boot up.
  • Keep your phone out of the bathroom. If you need music while getting ready, look into Bluetooth speakers designed for bathroom use.  And ahem, let’s bring magazines back for bathroom reading.
  • Bring a plastic sandwich bag with you. That way you can put your device in the sandwich bag (half closed to allow some airflow) while you’re out having fun adding extra protection from random splashes.

What do you do to keep your smartphone protected and speedy?
Let us know in the comments below.