A key benefit of your mobile device is that it can connect to networks, wirelessly, as you move around.
Devices connect in a number of ways, and it’s vital to understand these to stay secure.
Internet connections. The two main types of wireless internet connection are Wi-Fi and so-called ‘mobile data’.
What is it? Wi-Fi is a type of ‘wireless local area networking’ (WLAN). To use it, you need to be within tens of metres of an access point, known as a ‘hotspot’.
The pros: Almost all smartphones and tablets can connect to Wi-Fi – and there are millions of Wi-Fi access points in homes, offices, pubs, cafes, hotels, etc, and so on.
The cons: It can come with security risks. Some networks are ‘unsecured’, which means you don’t have to enter a password to access Wi-Fi. To protect data, never connect to ‘unsecured’ networks.
What is it? ‘Mobile data’ refers to internet access over the mobile phone network. Data is sent to and from a phone mast, over a wide area.
The pros: Most smartphones (and some tablets) can access mobile data. It’s usually secure, and you can get high speeds in cities.
The cons: Connection speeds can be slow in rural areas. When used abroad (‘data roaming’), it’s often expensive.
Your device may also be able to connect over short distances. Methods include:
Bluetooth helps you connect a phone or tablet to other devices nearby, such as headphones, speakers or a computer. You usually have to ‘pair’ devices by entering a security code.
NFC or ‘Near Field Communications’ is a very short-range technology. You use it, for example, when you pay by tapping your phone in a shop, for example via Apple Pay (on iOS) or Android Pay (on Android).
From a security perspective, it’s a good idea to turn off any connections you don’t intend to use.