If you have a smartphone, you probably use it to stay in touch with friends, loved ones and colleagues; entertain yourself during dull moments; access your bank accounts and credit card balances; and even track your activity and daily nutrition. The devices themselves are valuable to thieves, but the information on them is also a treasure trove for criminals. So, when something happens to your phone, it’s a major pain in more ways than one.
Thieves and hackers have your smartphone in their sights, but you don’t have to let them get their hands — virtual or otherwise — on it. Use common-sense cybersecurity practices and a solid malware protection suite to protect your phone from cyber threats, and take advantage of your phone’s built-in security features to protect it from theft, or at least keep thieves from accessing it if it is stolen.
Update Your Phone’s Software Regularly
The simplest piece of security advice for smartphones is the one that many owners don’t want to hear: Update your phone regularly. Usually, when hackers compromise a device, they do so using a software vulnerability that, ironically, has already been identified and patched by developers. But those patches don’t do you any good if you don’t install them on your phone. It might be a hassle, but you should always download and install regular software updates. Doing so will minimize your device’s weak spots.
Use Apps Judiciously
Apps are fun and super useful, but you shouldn’t be installing just any old app on your phone. It’s best if you stick to downloading apps from the Apple App Store if you have an iPhone or from Google Play, if you have an Android. The apps in these venues are more thoroughly vetted than apps from third-party vendors, like Amazon’s Appstore, or from random websites.
That said, while Apple does a pretty good job of keeping its App Store selections safe and squeaky clean, Google Play is more likely to harbor dangerous apps. Android phones want to offer their users more freedom in the kinds of apps they can install, and many users appreciate that, but it’s worth learning how to vet an app for safety before you install it.
Install An Anti-Malware App
One app you should definitely install on your smartphone is an anti-malware app. Antivirus protection is just as important for today’s smartphones and tablets as it is for your laptop. While there are some good free options out there, paid apps offer the most features and can be extended to cover every device in your household. Usually, they’re available for a reasonable subscription rate.
Set A Lock-Screen Password
Most smartphone owners worry a lot about protecting their devices from hackers and cyber-threats and not enough about the much more likely threat, physical theft. You’re probably more likely to have your phone stolen by a mugger or pickpocket than you are to fall victim to cybercrime, although that doesn’t mean you should skimp on the web security.
While you may not be able to prevent thieves from getting your phone, you can keep them from accessing the information therein. The single most effective thing you can do to keep thieves out of your phone is set a lock screen password. A six-digit PIN is still the best, most secure way to lock your phone; biometrics are easier to crack, and if you’re in the United States, they don’t offer you any Constitutional protection against allowing law enforcement to access your phone.
Be Ready To Wipe Your Phone Remotely
If you have a smart watch, set it to warn you if it loses Bluetooth contact with your phone. This will keep you from misplacing your phone and will give you a heads up if someone snatches it from you in public. While we don’t advise tackling the person to get your device back, you could take the opportunity to immediately lock and wipe the phone. Be prepared to track, lock and even wipe your phone if it’s stolen. You can use Find My iPhone or Android Device Manager for this.
With so much of your personal information stored within it, your phone is a goldmine for thieves — and it could be devastating for you if the information on your phone was compromised. Take steps now to keep your phone safe, so you can steer clear of the trouble that a compromised or stolen device could cause.