Australia’s prime minister has echoed the guidance of cybersecurity experts by suggesting a nightly five-minute shutdown of your iPhone. The purpose behind this recommendation is not merely to limit your daily screen time to 23 hours and 55 minutes but rather to prevent any potential spyware operating surreptitiously on your device.

The notion that regularly force-quitting apps can enhance your iPhone’s performance has long been a prevailing myth among non-tech-savvy individuals. However, rebooting your phone serves a distinct purpose. By terminating all background processes, it can provide a certain level of privacy protection against potential spyware.

According to The Guardian’s report, Australia’s prime minister, Anthony Albanese, shared this advice during the announcement of a new security appointment.

Albanese, in line with tech experts, has advised residents to power cycle their smartphones daily as a cybersecurity precaution. He emphasised the need for proactive measures to counter cyber risks and made this recommendation while announcing the appointment of Australia’s first national cybersecurity coordinator.

“We all bear the responsibility. Taking simple steps like turning off your phone for five minutes every night can make a difference. For those watching, make it a habit to do this within a 24-hour timeframe, perhaps while you’re brushing your teeth or engaging in other daily routines.”

The endorsement of this advice by the US National Security Agency (NSA) further solidifies its significance. The NSA has previously recommended performing a hard reboot of smartphones at least once a week for similar security reasons.

In the case of highly sophisticated spyware such as NSO’s Pegasus, the effectiveness of regular reboots may be limited. These types of malware often exploit vulnerabilities that allow them to relaunch even after a reboot. However, security experts argue that it can still be worthwhile to reboot your phone as a precautionary measure.

Dr. Priyadarsi Nanda, a senior lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney specialising in cybersecurity development, explains that regular phone reboots can minimise risks by forcefully closing any background applications and processes that could potentially monitor users or collect data maliciously.

According to Dr. Nanda, “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 provide complete protection, but rebooting can make things more difficult for hackers.”

Dr. Arash Shaghaghi, a cybersecurity lecturer from New South Wales, shares a similar perspective, stating that rebooting adds an additional hurdle for attackers to overcome.

Shaghaghi highlights that in the case of zero-click exploits, which are sophisticated attacks that can gain access without any user interaction, rebooting a smartphone can pose a challenge for attackers. When a device is rebooted, it disrupts their existing access and forces them to find alternative methods to exploit the device once it is powered back on. This additional hurdle can create difficulties for adversaries attempting to compromise the device’s security.