You wouldn’t run your desktop or laptop without password protection and antivirus software, but what about your smartphone? Nearly half of American adults couldn’t last a day without their handheld device, yet many give its security little thought. If you’re one of them, it’s time to change that. Here are the essentials you need to know about smartphone security.
It’s Important to Secure Your Lock Screen
Image via Flickr by Janitors
Anyone at all can swipe to unlock a smartphone, yet a third of smartphone users never change this default setting. Your lock screen provides an opportunity to lock people out of your phone and protect its data, so make sure that you use it. If people can’t use your smartphone, they’re less likely to steal it.
Many smartphones allow you to set a PIN code, password, or security pattern. Choose complex options that thieves aren’t likely to guess. A PIN code like 1234 or a straight-line security pattern won’t keep anyone out for very long. A handful of modern smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge have an advanced security feature that lets you use your fingerprint to gain access to your phone. This is ideal, because although people might guess your PIN, password, or pattern, they can’t gain access to your fingerprint easily. Add this security to your lock screen via your settings menu.
Also make sure to set your smartphone to lock automatically after it’s inactive for a few minutes. Longer durations increase the window that thieves have for easily accessing your information or installing spyware applications.
You Should Only Install Trusted Apps
People spend 89 percent of their smartphone time using mobile apps as opposed to visiting websites through a browser, but many give little thought to what those apps are. Good apps can entertain you, make you more productive, and organize your life, but bad apps can steal your information and infect your smartphone with viruses.
The best way to make sure that you download only good apps is to use only major app stores: Google Play, Apple iTunes, Microsoft’s Windows Store, and the Amazon Appstore. These providers perform rigorous testing, so their apps tend to be safer. Occasionally a bad app does sneak through, though, so increase your confidence by reading app reviews and privacy policies before installing.
You Can Track Your Smartphone and Wipe Its Contents Remotely
You’re probably used to using your phone’s GPS technology to navigate an unfamiliar area or to add geotags to your social media posts, but it can also help you track down your phone should it fall into the wrong hands, making the job of the police much easier. Through these tracking apps, you can also remotely wipe sensitive information before thieves can use it.
Windows phones and iPhones come with Find My Phone and Find My iPhone, respectively. Enable these features from the settings menus. Tracking and remote wiping are also part of the Android Device Manager. To enable this function, launch the app, link it to your Google account, and follow the instructions.
You Should Keep Your Operating System Up to Date
A new operating system isn’t just about increasing and improving its features. Each new release has the latest bug fixes and important security patches, features that might not be very flashy but that are really important. If your smartphone operating system isn’t kept up to date, hackers can exploit the bugs and security holes to access your personal information and install viruses. It’s safest to download operating system updates when you’re at home, using your secure connection rather than public Wi-Fi.
You Should Back Up Your Data
But what if, despite your best efforts, the worst happens? Smartphones are lost, stolen, and damaged every day. While you’ll likely feel like you’ve lost a best friend if that happens to your smartphone, your loss will be a little easier to take if you’ve backed up your data. You’ll find great backup apps in your preferred app store, including Ultimate Backup and Helium App Sync and Backup, both available through Google Play. These will save your contacts, pictures, music and video files, and other essential data securely in the cloud to minimize your losses.
If you love your smartphone, you should do everything you can to keep your device and its data safe. You might have been lax in the past, but it’s never too late to adopt more secure smartphone practices.