Turn your phone off every night for five minutes, Australian PM tells residents

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Experts back Anthony Albanese’s cybersecurity advice, saying forcibly closing apps could stop criminals from monitoring users or collecting data

Australia’s prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has told residents they should turn their smartphones off and on again once a day as a cybersecurity measure – and tech experts agree.

Albanese said the country needed to be proactive to thwart cyber risks, as he announced the appointment of Australia’s inaugural national cybersecurity coordinator.

“We need to mobilise the private sector, we need to mobilise, as well, consumers,” the prime minister said on Friday.

“We all have a responsibility. Simple things, turn your phone off every night for five minutes. For people watching this, do that every 24 hours, do it while you’re brushing your teeth or whatever you’re doing.”

The Australian government’s advice is not new. In 2020, the United State’s National Security Agency issued best-practice guidelines for mobile device security, which included rebooting smartphones once a week to prevent hacking.

While a reboot every day may seem a basic measure, experts believe it can help, in some instances.

Dr Priyadarsi Nanda is a senior lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney who specialises in cybersecurity development.

He said rebooting a phone regularly could minimise risk because it forcibly closes any applications and processes running in the background that could maliciously be monitoring users or collecting data.

Nanda said many users don’t realise their apps are often running in the background.

“Given how much we use smartphones in our lives, we know of cases where people haven’t turned their phones off in an entire year,” Nanda said, noting people who rely on their phone’s alarm clock, for example, may need it on 24 hours a day.

Nanda said some of the benefits of rebooting a phone could be achieved by regularly closing apps that might be running in the background. But there could be other malicious processes running on a compromised device that will only be stopped by turning the phone off.

“If there’s a process running from the adversarial side, turning off the phone breaks the chain, even if it’s only for the time the phone is off, it certainly frustrates the potential hacker.

“It may not fully protect you, but [rebooting] can make things more difficult” for hackers, Nanda said.
 

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