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This chapter is from the book

Managing Your Mobile Device’s Wireless Connections

All smartphones and some tablets can connect to the Internet using a cellular (4G/LTE/5G) data connection through your service provider (for example, AT&T Wireless, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless).

A cellular data plan either comes with a pre-determined monthly wireless data allocation (such as 5GB per month) or offers unlimited data while you’re in your cellular service provider’s network. If you travel abroad, your smartphone or tablet (with cellular data capabilities) will roam to another service provider’s network, and you will be charged high international roaming fees to make and receive calls, as well as to access the Internet using a cellular data connection. Most newer smartphones have a generic SIM card that automatically roams when abroad.

All smartphones and tablets can connect to the Internet using a Wi-Fi Internet connection whenever the device is within the signal radius of a Wi-Fi hotspot or your home wireless network. Connecting to a Wi-Fi Internet connection is free and unlimited, unless an access fee is charged by the Wi-Fi hotspot provider (in a hotel or Internet café, for example).

Just like when using a computer, you’re able to enhance the security of your mobile device’s Internet connection by installing and using a virtual private network (VPN) mobile app. A VPN can be turned on and used with either a cellular data connection or Wi-Fi connection. A VPN offers added protection when you’re away. When you install and activate a VPN on your mobile device, each time you access the Internet, everything you send or receive from your mobile device is automatically encrypted. This encryption helps to ensure secure transmission of your data—wirelessly from your mobile device to the Wi-Fi you’re connected to—without the threat of an unauthorized person (such as a cybercriminal) eavesdropping on your activity as your data is transmitted. Again, the security risk from hackers is significantly greater when using public Wi-Fi without a VPN.

Turning On Bluetooth Settings

In addition to communicating with the Internet, your mobile device can wirelessly link up with optional equipment and “smart” devices to remotely control them. This wireless connection is often achieved using Bluetooth, which is built in to your mobile device.

The actual wireless Bluetooth connection between your mobile device and the equipment it’s paired with is secure, but it works only within a signal radius of about 32 feet.

The equipment you link to and control from your mobile device may have security vulnerabilities that you can take simple steps to protect against. For example, there are many types of medical and fitness devises, from heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose monitors, to digital scales, smart pill boxes, and digital hearing aids that can exchange information with your smartphone. If you’re using one of these devices, make sure your personal medical data stays private, unless you opt to share it with your medical practitioner. Special privacy settings are typically offered within the specialized app that’s used to control the smart device.

Bluetooth is what typically enables connectivity between wireless headphones, external wireless speakers, a smart watch, or a wireless connection set up between your vehicle and smartphone.

If you don’t use Bluetooth devices, turn off your smartphone or tablet’s Bluetooth feature by launching Settings, tapping the Bluetooth option, and then tapping the Bluetooth feature.

However, to wirelessly link many types of equipment to your mobile device, the master Bluetooth option must be turned on and left on. You can control individual devices that are linked (or paired) with your device via the Bluetooth menu in Settings.

In-home appliances, security tools, and electronic devices can access the Internet to gather information and be remotely controlled or managed using a compatible computer, smartphone, smart watch, or tablet running a special app.

It’s important to set up this equipment—and your home Internet service—properly to protect against potential security vulnerabilities. If you maintain a secure Internet connection in your home, most smart home equipment is easy to use and offers minimal privacy and security risks. Some precautions include:

  • Installing a firewall to your home Internet service.

  • Using a virtual private network when connecting to the Internet using your computer, smartphone, and/or tablet, and not connecting your smart equipment to a public Wi-Fi.

  • Creating strong account passwords and keeping the passwords secure.

  • Setting up your smart equipment correctly and securely.

Using AirDrop (iPhone/iPad)

Another wireless tool that’s built in to the iOS and MacOS operating systems is called AirDrop. It’s used for transferring certain types of app-specific data between your smartphone, tablet, or Mac and someone else’s iPhone, iPad, or Mac that is in close proximity. This might include photos or an entry from your Contacts database.

To turn on or off the AirDrop feature on an iPhone or iPad, launch Settings, tap the General option, and then tap the AirDrop option. On a Mac, launch System Preferences, click the Extensions option, click the Share Menu option, and then use the AirDrop checkbox to turn the feature on or off.

For maximum security, keep the AirDrop featured turned off. To do this on an iPhone or iPad, select the Receiving Off option from the AirDrop menu in Settings.

If you choose to turn on this feature, you can opt to connect with any other iPhone, iPad, or Mac that belongs to someone whose contact information is stored in your Contacts database. To do this, choose the Contacts Only option from the AirDrop submenu.

This is a more secure option than allowing anyone near you with a compatible iPhone, iPad, or Mac (including strangers when you’re in a public and crowded location) to send you photos, video clips, or other content to the Apple equipment you’re using.

Send App-Specific Content Using AirDrop

When you want to share app-specific content via AirDrop, follow these steps:

  1. Launch a compatible app, such as Photos, that supports AirDrop. (Shown here on an iPhone.)

  2. Select the content you want to share (such as a photo).

  3. Tap the Share menu icon.

  4. From the Share menu, choose the AirDrop option. A list of nearby compatible mobile devices and Macs that have AirDrop turned on and that are accessible from the equipment you’re using will appear. Tap the user’s name or photo that you want to send the selected content to.

  5. A wireless connection between your equipment and the receiver’s equipment will be established, and the selected content will be transmitted between the two devices within a few seconds. (Not shown.)

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