Hackers would love to weasel their way on to your smartphone or tablet, just like they try to do your computer. That's how they steal sensitive information like account details, passwords, important texts, intimate photos and whatever else possible.

Unfortunately for them, mobile gadgets are a bit harder to crack than the average computer. So hackers have to be even sneakier and use malicious apps, hidden Wi-Fi attacks or simply walk off with your gadget.

Here are three steps you need to take now so you’re not their next victim.

1. Keep viruses and malware off of your phone

Your phone isn't just vulnerable to direct attacks. Hackers use your contacts to send you malicious links. They also use "honeypot" websites to trick you into downloading vulnerable apps. The following apps protects you from both viruses and sinister tricks that hackers use to place malware on gadgets.

Lookout

One of the biggest risks carrying your tablet or smartphone around is human error. It can easily slip out of your pocket, be forgotten at a coffee shop or stolen by a criminal.

Lookout for iOS comes packed in with anti-virus and malware protection, but its anti-theft options are what I like most about the app. Lookout backs up your contact data and, if your phone is stolen, tracks its location by GPS.

Why back up contact data? Malware like CryptoLocker is called "ransomware" because it can hold your device hostage. The message it sends is clear, “Pay up or else you will never see any of your information stored again!” With your contacts list backed up, safe and secure, it's a lot easier to not give in to a criminal's demands.

avast!

Hey, Android users: avast! is an app that can scan, remove and inoculate your phone from potential viral threats. avast! also protects against Wi-Fi threats and also locks apps with potential vulnerabilities.

2. Protect against Wi-Fi attacks

Public Wi-Fi can be one of the most dangerous places for your phone or tablet. Don't worry, your trip to the airport or coffee shop won't have to be without your trusty gadget. These apps can encrypt your connection and keep your data safe from potential snoops.

avast! SecureLine VPN

If you're looking for a more fully featured VPN/anti-virus program, then avast!'s SecureLine VPN app might just be perfect for your Android phone.

The app does the same data encryption on public Wi-Fi, helps you locate your device, monitors your data usage and even lets you filter which contacts you do or don't want to hear from.

HotSpot Shield VPN

Another dedicated VPN app, HotSpot Shield VPN is one of the most popular offerings on the iOS app store. It routes your Web traffic through a secure network that hackers can't penetrate. The app has over 200 million downloads, and that's because people really value one convenient feature that HotSpot Shield VPN offers:

Have you ever been blocked from visiting a website by a public Wi-Fi hotspot? HotSpot lets you get around those restrictions. The app helps you to securely visit any website on the Internet from any Wi-Fi hotspot easily.

3. Always have a last resort

Whether you're working with an iOS device or Android, there are two very convenient apps that help you find a lost smartphone or tablet.

For Apple users, there's Find My iPhone. It helps you locate your iPhone or iPad using its built-in GPS. If you suspect that either has slipped into a hard-to-find spot in your home, you can also use Find My iPhone's Web tool to make it ring. You can remotely wipe your device if necessary to protect your personal info.

Android Device Manager does the same thing. It lets you track all of your Android devices, trigger the ringer or track them with GPS. Remote wipes work, too.

We all have a lot of faith in app developers not to overlook basic security flaws. It’s time we stop. Finally, one more thing you need to know. Hackers can steal personal information even if the phone or tablet has been wiped. I know, it’s a tough world.

Copyright 2014, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.