A sizeable proportion of people are oblivious to the fact that smartphones can catch viruses.

With almost every adult and child in the UK owning a smartphone it is no surprise that attackers are targeting them with increasing enthusiasm.

Complexity of technology breeds more complex viruses. Five years ago, smartphones could just about make a call and browse a basic website. Today they are nearly as complex as a laptop or desktop.

With this in mind, we’ve put together 10 simple steps to help protect yourself from attackers.

Enable PIN, pattern or password protection
Smartphones contain lots of juicy personal information: emails, banking apps, photos and even password lists. According to KnowTheNet up to 44% of smartphones don’t have a password enabled.

Install antivirus
Mobile malware is increasing at a shocking rate and according to F-Secure (a Finnish antivirus vendor) between 79% and 96% is aimed at Android. If you are strapped for cash, several antivirus vendors offer free antivirus apps.

Enable device encryption
A PIN may offer some protection, but what about the SD card? This can still be accessed via a computer without a password. Several devices have built-in encryption that covers the storage and SD card.

Stick to the official app stores
Microsoft and Apple have strong vetting procedures when it comes to approving apps. Google’s Play Store is beginning to catch up for Android, so fewer dodgy apps slip through the net. Stick to the app store to reduce your chances of installing an infected app.

Check the reviews
When deciding whether to download an app, check out the reviews within the app store or elsewhere. If it has thousands of downloads it should be safe; if it has just a few then think again.

Update the operating system and apps
Like a PC, your smartphone needs to update from time to time. Annoying? Maybe. But updates often plug security holes and fix general bugs.

Avoid public Wi-Fi
Using unsecured public Wi-Fi is a little like broadcasting your personal information over the radio. Two problems exist: people listening into unencrypted traffic; and people aiming to record your personal information by setting up fake hotspots to mirror genuine ones. Turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth also helps reduces exposure and saves battery power.

Backup your data
Smartphones contain data which is not held elsewhere, e.g. contacts, calendars and photos. You should consider backing up your smartphone in the same way you back up your PC. Some automatic backup apps do exist but check their security and privacy first.

Enable tracking and remote wipe
Very few lost smartphones are returned and without tracking there is no way of finding your device. Tracking lets you locate the smartphone to within a few metres, and even resets the device to its default status.

Want great security and privacy? Avoid…
Android. Harsh? Maybe, but Android is the number one target for mobile malware because of its openness, poor app approval and poor privacy history. BlackBerry remains number one for privacy and security because of its Government approval and strong inbuilt encryption options. Apple iOS follows closely.