Wearable technology to make mobile security more fashionable

The Pebble smartwatch can act as a virtual key to unlock your smartphone.

The Pebble smartwatch can act as a virtual key to unlock your smartphone.

Enabling the lockscreen on your smartphone is one of the easiest ways to protect your privacy, but recent studies have shown that the majority of mobile device owners leave their smartphones unprotected because entering a PIN code or swipe pattern is too cumbersome. It only takes a few seconds to enter a PIN code, but the average person unlocks their phone 39 times per day and that time adds up. Thanks to advancements in wearable technology, device passwords could soon become a thing of the past.

Tap the back of the Moto X to the Motorola Skip and it will unlock the phone.

Tap the back of the Moto X to the Motorola Skip and it will unlock the phone.

Last week we saw the debut of the new Motorola Moto X, which includes several new features geared towards enhancing personal privacy. A wearable accessory called Motorola Skip will unlock the phone with a simple tap. It can be placed on a shirt sleeve, belt loop, purse strap or anywhere else that is convenient. Motorola also includes three Skip dots that are stickers which can be placed on your work desk, car dashboard, or night stand.

Another cool security feature is called Trusted Bluetooth Devices. When this software setting is switched on, the phone’s lockscreen will be disabled when it is actively paired with another device that has been marked as trusted. That means you could easily access your phone without a PIN code when it’s connected to a pair of wireless headphones, a smartwatch like Pebble, or your car stereo.

One smart ring, unlimited possibilities.

One smart ring, unlimited possibilities.

Others are also working to create wearable technology that makes security more convenient. John McLear recently launched a successful Kickstarter project for his NFC Ring that can be used to unlock doors and mobile phones, and to transfer information and link people. The programmable ring was a huge hit with early adopters and the crowdfunded project exceeded its goal by 800 percent.

The best part about these advancements in wearable technology is that they are compatible with millions of existing devices that support Bluetooth or NFC. Third party developers are already releasing applications that support these unlock features, and I expect we will see Apple and Google integrate similar technologies with future updates to their mobile operating systems.

Pretty soon, you will no longer have an excuse not to lock your phone.

Wearables are a benefit to your mobile privacy, but you still need strong mobile security to go along with them. Are you concerned about malware on your Android device? Make sure you’ve got a solid defense with a product like NQ Mobile Security.

5 tips for sending your kids to school with a smartphone


1. Know the latest school policies

Every school is different, but most of them allow students to bring mobile devices to class as long as they turn them off during learning time. This one might sound like a no brainer, but make sure you check with your child’s school and find out about their official policy for phones in the classroom. It is important that your child knows about the latest rules because schools can take their cell phone from them when they have reasonable suspicion that it has been involved in some violation of school policy or the law.

Some students have been known to abuse their smartphones at school. Make sure they know not to use the phone for outrageous things like cheating, taking pictures of kids without permission, and harassing teachers while filming it. Some abuses of phone privileges have serious consequences, and all the evidence is stored in the device.

2. Setup a lock screen PIN or swipe pattern

This is something that all smartphone owners should do, but it’s especially important for children. As adults we often keep our smartphone in our pocket or purse, but kids at school might be forced to leave their mobile device in their backpack, cubby hole, or locker where another student might have easier access to it.

When I was young, I would always hop on my brother’s computer when he wasn’t looking and change his wallpaper to something embarrassing as a joke. Today a child might take someone else’s phone and post inappropriate updates to their social networks. Make sure your child keeps his phone locked so others can’t use it without his permission.

3. Talk to your children about privacy when using mobile apps

A recent report from the Pew Research Center shows that although teenagers 12 to 17 tend to manage their privacy settings themselves, the majority (71%) have sought outside advice at some point. The most popular group that teens get security tips from was their peers (42%), but parents came in a close second (41%) when they seek help.

“At first, the finding that 41% of online teens have asked for advice about online privacy from a parent seems surprising — particularly given that many teens are motivated to protect their privacy specifically from their parents,” Amanda Lenhart, the study’s lead author, told Mashable. “But for a subset of teens, often younger ones, their parents were heavily involved in helping them set up their social media accounts (often as a precondition to use) and so it’s not so surprising that those teens would be seeking advice from their parents.”

Your kids are going to download apps if they have smartphones, so you might as well help them out and discuss any privacy concerns they might have. Are they aware they are broadcasting their location to others? Do they know that Snapchat pictures can be saved by others? Does every picture they take get automatically uploaded to a cloud service? These are things you should know and talk openly about. Make sure your children realize they can’t believe everything they see on their mobile device, nothing is private, and everything they post online can be permanent.

4. Keep it charged at all times

What good is a mobile phone if the battery is dead? Your child might leave for school with a fully charged phone, but it could end up dead at the end of the day when they really need to call you. In case of emergencies, provide your child with an extra battery or a portable battery. These can be purchased from most big box retail stores for $20-30 and are a real life saver in emergency situations.

 5. Use parental control software

If your child is still learning the ropes of their new smartphone, or you don’t trust them to obey the school rules, then try installing a parental control software. A service like NQ Family Guardian can help you control your children’s smartphone usage by setting up schedules when they can make calls, browse the Internet, text, and play apps. You can also filter out inappropriate websites and apps, keep track of your child’s location, and help your child make smart choices when using their phone.

To celebrate back to school season, we are offering a 30% discount on NQ Family Guardian.

What you need to know before your teenager joins LinkedIn


LinkedIn has quickly become the world’s largest social network for professionals with 225 million+ members, but the service isn’t just for older people. This month LinkedIn introduced University Pages and soon they will be updating their terms of service to change the age requirement for new accounts. Currently users need to be at least 18 before joining the social network, but beginning on September 12th that age limit will be lowered to just 13 years old, depending on the country.

University Pages on LinkedIn is part of a new focus on education designed to help students at every critical milestone from choosing the right campus to finding fulfilling careers. Hundreds of schools from around the world have already created pages that allow potential students to ask questions, explore the careers of graduates, connect with alumni, and build their network.

Christina Allen, Director of Product Management at LinkedIn, said, “I knew that hidden in millions of member profiles were powerful insights about the career outcomes of educations from universities around the world. If harnessed, these insights could provide incredible value for students – helping them explore possible futures and build a support network to help them succeed on campus and beyond.”

Finding the right college is often a difficult choice and it’s nice to see companies building tools that can make the process easier, but there are some things that parents should know before their teenager joins LinkedIn.

  • The minimum age for LinkedIn members will vary by country; in the United States it is 14.
  • LinkedIn members who are minors will have different default settings to limit publicly viewable profile information and unwanted communications. Profile’s of teens will default to first name and last name initial, and LinkedIn will automatically prevent their profile from appearing in public search engines such as Google and Bing.
  • Customer Support tickets initiated by members under 18 will have special routing.
  • LinkedIn has updated their Safety Center and Family Center so that all members can easily find and access information on how to safely use LinkedIn

For a more concise summary of the changes to LinkedIn’s new Terms of Service, visit their User Agreement and Privacy Policy pages.

When I was a teenager, the most popular social network was MySpace. It encouraged us to pick what bands we liked and arrange our friends into a Top 8 list, and higher education was the last thing on my mind when I was logged in. There were not many online services that motivated me to focus on which school was best for my future, so I’m glad that LinkedIn is targeting this market.

Concerned about your child’s smartphone usage? Download NQ Family Guardian and enjoy a 1-Month FREE Trial. 

At what age should a child get their first smartphone?


Back to school season is now here, and this year more kids than ever will be carrying a smartphone in their backpack. A mobile device can provide peace of mind to a parent that wants to stay in touch and track their child’s location, but at what age should a youngster own their first cell phone?

A recent study found that one in 10 children get their first phone by the age of five – the equivalent of kindergarten. Another report from the UK found that the average age a child gets a phone is only 7.5 years old. That’s a drop of six years in the past decade, when juveniles were getting their first cell phone in middle school.

In our family, I gave my son his first smartphone when he turned one year old. My reasons were different – I needed him to stop chewing on my phone – but I wanted him to get familiar with a mobile device at an early age so he feels comfortable using it later. Giving our child a way to communicate with us in case of an emergency is important, so he will take a cell phone with him when he is old enough for school.

Most parents listed “safety of children” as the main reason they bought their child a mobile phone, but peer pressure also played a factor. A quarter of parents surveyed admitted that they felt it was the “right thing to do” after they had seen peers buy children of the same age phones.

Even though the average age of a child’s first phone is trending lower, some parents still choose to wait a little longer. Bill Gates, former CEO of Microsoft and father of three, recently revealed that his kids didn’t receive a mobile phone until they turned 13. That led his children to complain that, “All the other kids have one [and] it’s so embarrassing,” but he stuck with the family rule.

Many parents will wrestle with the appropriate time to give their child a phone, and it’s a complex decision that should be tackled early. Every family is unique so parents will have to determine how responsible and independent their kids are. Some children might need to be in touch for safety reasons, while other kids might not yet understand that their texts and picture messages can be widely broadcast across the web by others.

Thankfully, new parental control apps can help with the transition to a child’s first smartphone. Parents can easily monitor their child’s location, set limit’s on smartphone usage, and filter out inappropriate apps and web content. It’s a parents job to say “No” if they feel their child is too young for a smartphone, but it’s also their duty to teach them safe and responsible usage when the time finally comes.

If you are a parent, have you already given your child their first mobile phone? How old do you think a child should be before they receive their first mobile device? Vote in our poll below and let us know.

Monday Malware Report for August 26, 2013

A malware dubbed Jekyll was able to slip past Apple's app screeners.

A malware dubbed Jekyll was able to slip past Apple’s app screeners.

  • Last week, researchers at Georgia Tech revealed they had previously uploaded malware to Apple’s App Store back in March. The team created an app, which they dubbed Jekyll, that appears harmless on first run. This allowed it to fool Apple’s app screeners and after the app was approved, it reconfigured itself into malware that could “stealthily post tweets, send e-mails and texts, steal personal information and device ID numbers, take photos, and attack other apps.” Apple has already recognized the intrusion and has said that it has made some changes to its processes in response to the Georgia Tech experiment, but this is an important reminder that no app-vetting process is perfect.
  • Google rolled out a small firmware update (version JWR66Y) to Nexus devices running Android 4.3 that included “security improvements.” Details were limited, but it is suspected that the update included a fix for the Android security vulnerability that led to Bitcoin theft. Most of the Bitcoin wallet apps were updated to address the problem, but users will want to install this Android update to prevent this vulnerability from affecting other apps.
  • Public Inteligence obtained a security bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, which reveals that Android continues to be the most popular target of attackers due to “its market share and open source architecture.” The bulletin reads, “44 percent of Android users are still using version 2.3.3 through 2.3.7, known as Gingerbread, which were released in 2011 and have a number of security vulnerabilities that were fixed in later versions.” Google automatically scans apps that are distributed through its Google Play store, but users of older versions of Android are vulnerable if they install apps from unknown sources.

Concerned about malware on your Android device? Make sure you’ve got a solid defense with a product like NQ Mobile Security.