What personal information do you keep electronically?
The amount of information each of us has stored electronically is astonishing. From our home address, phone number, bank accounts, social accounts, (or social security number, tax file number of national insurance number depending on where you live), the amount of information is endless. Nowadays it’s easier than ever for our information to fall into the wrong hands.
But, where is all this information kept? Our first thought is on our computers. We have heard how to protect our computers…download antivirus software, put up a firewall, and have a protected password.
What we don’t hear about often, is how to protect the little device that carries the same (if not more) sensitive information that can be vulnerable to data hackers.
We’re talking about the smartphone.
Think about the amount of information you keep on your smartphone. Text messages, emails, photos, contacts, browsing history, financial apps, social media apps, location and the list goes on and on.
It’s surprising to find out that 71% of phones are missing security features that defend against data-stealing software, which explains why criminals have an easier time targeting mobile devices.
Just like protecting your computer, there are many ways to secure your smartphone (and they’re easier than you think)!
Let’s look at 7 ways to secure your smartphone:
1. Delete apps you’re not using
Take a few minutes to review what apps you currently have. You may have old apps installed that have been neglected, or have not been updated. Apps that you haven’t used or updated in a few months, can become dangerous over time without you knowing. Remove any neglected apps and begin to update the remaining apps privacy/permission settings.
2. Update and review all apps and settings
The best thing you can do to keep an app secure is to update it and make sure the privacy settings are restricted, to keep your personal information private. Here is how to check your privacy and permission settings for each app.
To check bulk settings iOS (iPhone users) go to Settings > Privacy > Select any of the following: Location, Contacts, Calendar, and Photos etc. that you wish to review.
Android users don’t have it quite as easy to check bulk settings, but it is possible to check individual apps. Go to Settings > Application Manager > Select any App > Permissions.
It’s important to know what apps have permission to your private information and refrain from granting access to an app you are unfamiliar with. Here is a list of apps have been classified as the worst apps for privacy. Do you have any of these apps? If so, it’s in your best interest to either delete the app entirely or take away certain permissions.
If you are an Android user: Anyone, including frauds, can upload an app to the Google Play Store, which makes Android users more vulnerable to downloading dangerous malware. Android phones allow 3rd party downloading apps that don’t always catch malicious apps before they infect mobile users. Take advice from the 2 million users that were fallen victim of malicious malware, and don’t download an app unless you are sure it is safe.
For iPhone users, the Apple Store has more regulation on the apps that are uploaded, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely protected from hackers. We still recommend not granting access to your information if it is not necessary.
3. Update your operating system when it asks you
You know that pop-up that constantly reminds you when an update is needed?
Some of us tend to postpone the update because it seems to pop-up at the most inconvenient times. It may seem like no big deal, but there is a reason software is constantly changing, similar to how your computer needs to do regular updates. With updates, comes fixes in security.
So next time you press “Remind me later”, remember you are exposing yourself to a hacker that is already taking advantage of those who refuse to update their smartphones and now have a loophole to gain access to private information.
Also note that if you use jailbreaking tools, you are eliminating safety features that keep hackers from getting into your phone and gathering your personal data. The numbers are scary: About 1 out of 20 Android users, and 1 out of 250 iOS users “root” their phones, which is a hackers dream come true.
Think twice about taking down those important safety barriers if you decide to jailbreak your phone.
4. Lock it up with a passcode.
This one may seem like common sense. A locked phone is a secure phone. However, only 1 out of 3 people actually use a passcode. And we’re not talking about a fingerprint or face identifying tool, we’re talking about a good ol’ 4 or 6 digit passcode.
The reason why a digital passcode is better than other identifying tools is that obtaining a fingerprint or picture of your facial features is an easy task for a smart thief.
Using a passcode and choosing a unique code, is the most efficient way to keep a stranger out of your smartphone. Consider using the setting that locks you out after a maximum number of attempts. If they can’t get in, they can’t get your personal information.
Don’t forget, a password should be hard to guess. Check out the DO’s and DONT’S to choosing a security passcode.
5. Be careful when using public Wi-Fi
Many data carriers only offer a certain amount of data each month, which means when we come across free Wi-Fi we take it.
So we find free Wi-Fi, hit accept and BAM, data is up and running again. Seems like a piece of cake, but do you know who is in charge of that Wi-Fi or who has access to it?
If you have any doubt about a wireless connection don’t hit accept. Although it’s unlikely that a local cafe or library will have a bad Wi-Fi network, it’s always good to be cautious when using an unknown network.
There are tools such as TunnelBear that offer a private channel to surf the web so when you are using public Wi-Fi so looky-loos can’t track your activity.
6. Learn how to get remote access in case it is lost or stolen
You take your smartphone everywhere, so the odds of it getting lost or stolen is much greater than your computer. Thankfully there are apps for any smartphone that can remotely track and wipe out information if need be.
iPhone users make sure you have Find My iPhone enabled (Settings > iCloud > Find my iPhone) in case you need to locate your phone and delete all internal memory remotely.
Android users, get yourself familiar with the Android Device Manager in case you find yourself in the same situation.
7. Limit the notifications that appear on your screen
If you are one of the many who allows notifications and alerts to show on your lock screen, you may want to think about what they may expose.
If someone steals your phone, they might not be able to access your information if you have a passcode, however, they will see any notifications that pop up.
We understand notifications help you remember tasks throughout the day, however, we suggest to keep notifications limited.
8. Before getting rid of an old phone wipe off all information
So you have protected your phone up to this point, and now it’s time to get the new upgrade. What you do with your old phone is just as important to when you first got it. There are a few steps that need to be taken to ensure all your information is deleted.
This doesn’t mean just deleting each of the apps, pictures or contact list, as it’s very easy for the next person to recover that information. It means deleting the entire internal memory so that there is no way it can be recovered from the next owner.
Keep up with app updates, only download trustworthy apps, and refrain from granting access to your phone’s personal information.
Keep your phone locked with a passcode and beware of using someone else’s network as they can monitor your every move.
And last but not least, remove all internal memory when you dispose of your old smartphone and don’t forget to follow these 7 steps to secure your new smartphone.
By doing so, you can help protect your personal information from getting into the wrong hands!
If this article has given you insight on how to better protect yourself from data hackers, please share with your family and friends.