Due to their mobile nature, smart phones are at a high risk of getting lost or stolen. At the same time, many people now use their phones for online shopping, making payments, checking emails and a wide range of other activities that involve sending personal or financial information out over the Internet. Because of the increased risks involved, it is imperative that you take some extra steps to safeguard your device.
#1. Disable Bluetooth
While Bluetooth can be useful for close-range data transfer or using various wireless devices such as headphones, keeping the connection on at all times leaves you more open to potential security threats. Bluetooth also consumes battery life, and recent evidence even suggests that the radiation it produces could be bad for your health. For these reasons, you should keep it turned off when you’re not using it.
#2. Avoid Unsecured Wi-Fi
When you connect to an unsecured Wi-Fi network, someone with the right tools can intercept the data being sent between your smartphone and the local router. Unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots, characterized by the lack of a passkey requirement, might be useful, but they should never be used for any potentially sensitive online activities unless you connect using a reliable VPN which masks your online identity.
#3. Enter a PIN Code
All modern smartphone operating systems provide a number of options for securing your phone, just like a laptop or desktop computer. The simplest way to secure your phone is to configure a PIN code, though passwords or touch gestures are also possible with most phones. If your phone is protected in this way, a thief would be unable to access the data on it or use the device at all without wiping it completely.
#4. Don’t Download Apps from Third-Party Sources
There are countless apps available for modem mobile operating systems, but almost all of the legitimate ones are exclusively available through the app store that comes with the phone. The apps that developers submit to these official directories are thoroughly scanned for malicious software, so you should avoid downloading apps from any third-party sources instead. For example, if you’re using an Android device, you should obtain all of your apps through the Google Play Store.
#5. Keep Everything Up-to-Date
Since smart phones are basically pocket-sized computers, many of the same rules apply as they do to desktop computers. As is the case with any computer, you should always keep your operating system and apps up-to-date. New updates often release a range of bug fixes, improvements and, most importantly, address any potential security flaws. Fortunately, most smart phones download and install updates automatically, but you should still make sure you’re running the latest software.
#6. Encrypt Your Device
Although encrypting your smartphone might make it noticeably slower and take some time in the first place, it’s highly recommended if you regularly use your device for things like online payments or handling any other potentially sensitive information. Data encryption is particularly important for any smart phones owned by corporations. However, even average smartphone users usually have sensitive data on their devices.
#7. Synchronize Your Data
Even if your smartphone doesn’t end up in the wrong hands, there’s a good chance that, due to its mobile nature, it could get mislaid or broken. Since many people have hundreds or even thousands of treasured photos and other files stored on their devices, it is particularly important to ensure your data is kept backed up. Fortunately, most mobile operating systems come with easy online backup and data synchronization services.
#8. Don’t Save Your Passwords
Even if you are in the habit of locking your phone with a password, there’s always the possibility that an opportunistic thief could steal it when it’s already unlocked and easily gain access to any accounts you’re logged into. While you should lock your phone every time you put it into your pocket, it’s also wise to avoid saving any passwords, particularly for online banking services and email accounts.
#9. Lock Your Apps
While basic editions of Google Android don’t provide any facility to lock individual apps there are third-party utilities available that can provide this useful additional level of protection. The most popular of such apps for Android is AppLock, which has more than 100 million users already. Similar apps also exist for iPhone and Windows Phones.
#10. Enable Remote Wiping
Most smartphones now allow you to access them remotely provided, of course, they are still turned on. Thanks to remote access features, you can often track the location of your phone using its built-in GPS in the event that you lose it. If your phone was stolen and you have little or no chance of getting it back, you can remotely reset it to factory settings, deleting all personal data in the process.
Many people take digital security for granted, but while software and hardware developers continue to improve the security of their products, it’s ultimately up to the end user to make the most out of the various features and abilities available. Keeping your smartphone and, more importantly, the data on it safe must take priority in a time when most people are heavily reliant on their mobile devices.