Tens of millions of Americans have smartphones these days, and many use them with increasing regularity to do everything from checking their email to making online purchases. However, what people often don't think about when they use these devices is the ways in which they may be at risk for hacking attacks, or worse. As such, it's often a good idea for smartphone users to acquaint themselves with some standard security measures to better protect their personal and even financial information.

The most important thing people can do when trying to secure a mobile device is to have a lock screen passcode, according to a report from the security firm Malwarebytes Labs. This is because, if a person's phone is lost or stolen, and they aren't protecting their screens with a complex passcode of some kind, all the information they have on their phones – contact information for friends and family, personal data, financial apps, etc. – will all be at a stranger's fingertips. Most crooks would be unable to get past even this most basic form of security.

This same precaution can also be true of individual apps, because many allow users to set another password within them, the report said. That, too, just provides an additional layer of protection.

Moving beyond passwords
However, sometimes even that might not be enough to make sure sensitive data is protected on mobile devices, the report said. In addition, it can be wise for consumers to download antivirus apps that further protect a phone in the same way their desktop brothers protect computers. The good news here is that many of these apps are free, and provide additional security against everything from downloaded malware apps to hacking attempts.

Further, there are some non-standard websites that allow users to download mobile apps, and they should be avoided at all costs, the report said. Apple does a good job of vetting all apps that get onto its App Store, while Android phones have less (although some) protection in this regard. Certainly, any app downloaded from a relatively unknown site poses a security threat, sometimes even if antivirus apps are also installed.

Bad browsing habits
Finally, it's also important for consumers to keep in mind that any information they enter on a phone – PIN codes, passwords, financial data, etc. – can be intercepted if they're connected to a WiFi network. However, as long as they're only using cellular data, they are likely to be perfectly safe. That's because their phones have a unique one-to-one connection with the cell network that is overridden by connecting to WiFi. For this reason, whenever a person attempts to enter sensitive information, they should only do so when off WiFi, and if that site uses HTTPS protocols that provide an extra layer of security.

By following these simple steps, and using a bit of common sense about not revealing passwords or other sensitive information in most circumstances, consumers will be able to significantly shield themselves from mobile security threats of all stripes.