In today’s tech savvy world, most of us now live on our smartphones, using them for banking, browsing, socializing, shopping, and more. Additionally, we stay logged in to our various accounts for ease of use, which means that if your handset was to fall into the wrong hands, the other party will essentially have access to your whole world. The worst case scenario is that a stolen or lost phone may lead to theft- of either identity or money- and do not think that this cannot happen to you: According to consumer reports, 3.1 million phones were lost in America alone in 2014, with another 2.1 million being stolen while 742,000 phones were stolen in Wales and England during the same period, according to official figures.
Even if you are still in possession of your smartphone, it does not mean that it is safe since malware is also a risk. In 2014, Motive Security Labs estimated that 16 million cell phone devices were infected with malicious software. Fortunately, however, there are steps that you can take to ensure that no one has access to anything that they should not. Below, we take a look at 10 ways to keep your phone secure as follows:
- Secure lock screen
It seems almost absurd in this era of smartphones not to have a lock screen password, regardless of how basic it is. In fact, if you do not have one, it is highly advisable to navigate to your cell’s security settings and enable one immediately.
PINs and pattern locks are the some of the most secure options but if you can handle the extra hassle, alphanumeric passwords are ideal. You could also take it one step further by regularly changing your pass code in case someone accidentally sees what you have typed in.
- Updated software
Whether you are running Windows, Android, or iOS, your smartphone will always advise you when to grab the latest available OS. While this may be a little difficult, especially with Android updates taking a little while to go through network and manufacturer testing, it is well worth it.
This is because the latest OS is likely to come with added bonuses as well as having numerous security loopholes that may have been present in earlier versions closed. Most manufacturers allow users to set their phones to check for updates automatically, so ensure that this box is always ticked.
- Use vault and lock code apps
If you have a pass code that somehow manages to fall into the wrong hands, then all your data could be at risk. It is for this reason that adding a second layer of security is important for protecting vital pictures and messages. Another app adds an extra layer of security by protecting apps with a second code.
Vault apps also allow users to be safe by storing all the files that they need to secure within a dedicated area of the device or on an SD card, as well as being able to delete the data following unsuccessful log in attempts.
- Disable apps from unsecure sources
While it may seem like a nice idea to install and download apps that are not found on Google Play Store or the App Store, these apps tend to be the ones that are less secure. Microsoft, Apple, Google, as well as BlackBerry keep tabs on the apps appearing on their portal which means that those likely to contain malicious code are likely to have been removed before you install them.
- Install antivirus
Viruses are, undoubtedly, one of the biggest threats that could see data leaked from your smartphone. While the problem is not as widespread as on PCs, it still remains a credible threat.
Viruses appear to be more prevalent on Android phones due to their open source nature- malicious apps can be loaded onto the device without undergoing checks from Google- while less hazardous for iPhones due to Apple’s strict control over its app store.
In both instances, this can be countered through the use of mobile Antivirus software such as AVG, McAfee etc. both of which grace the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store.
- Avoid having sensitive files on your device
Even better than encrypting your smartphone’s SD card is to make sure that sensitive files are not there to begin with. While having such files may seem convenient and logical as you may want to edit documents when out and about, there is really no need to have such sensitive files on your handset.
With phones like the iPhone 5S, Galaxy S4, or HTC One able to support external USB drives through a wireless USB flash drive or via a separate cable, it is advisable to get yourself a USB On The Go flash drive so as to enjoy the best of both worlds without compromising on security.
- SIM lock
Variously referred to as SIM security or a SIM PIN, SIM locks are especially important for those who are tied to uncapped contracts with their network providers.
Since this requires you to input a PIN before sending a message or making a call, it is a vital safety feature if you want to ensure that thieves do not run up massive bills were they to access your phone. Granted, this is not the most efficient way of using your cell, but if you are in a place that worries you, enable this feature by heading to your security settings.
- Wearable tech
One of the key features found in the Galaxy Gear 2 or Sony SmartWatch 2 is the ability to know when you have left your phone behind. Once the Bluetooth connection is broken when out of range, the watch should buzz to alert you.
If your phone is still in range, it should also be possible to make it ring- a feature that is useful beyond being able to trace your phone when you have dropped it behind the sofa or left it in your car.
- Enable location settings
This is less about protecting your data or device from being stolen and much more about recovering your handset in the event of loss.
On Android and iOS, there is a ‘Find my phone’ app which is exceptionally easy to use and install. From here, you can lock, ring, locate, and wipe off data from your device if need be.
- Use guest/kid modes
Guest/kid modes are also crucial in keeping your phone secure as the last thing you want is for your friend or child to be messing around on your cell and stumble across private data, or worse, find out that they inadvertently called your boss while you are discussing a potential job interview. Such modes are now prevalent on most Windows and Android devices as well as being downloadable through the App Store on iOS. Just make sure that you know how to get out of them once your friend or child is through with your device.
Smartphones now define us by being the portal to our online identities and as such, should be treated with care and secured against any wrongdoing offline (stolen) or online (hacking). If you are not careful, losing your cell may mean more than just a loss in phone numbers and contacts- we are talking about your synced files, social media accounts, emails, important documents, messages, and photos.