How to Secure Your Cell Phone for Personal Safety
Mobile security solutions let you remotely monitor, control and access home devices from the palm of your hand. While this can be insanely convenient, it also means that an unprecedented amount of personal data is now stored in our phones.
If the wrong person accesses this data, it could put your personal safety at risk. Here’s a hypothetical: An unscrupulous person recovers a lost phone with few security safeguards in place. That individual uses your GPS history to unearth your home address, drives to your residence, and then logs into your automation app to unlock doors or disarm monitoring systems. That person is now inside your house.
Don’t be the victim in this story. Below, learn how to properly secure your cell phone to protect personal information from falling into the wrong hands.
Lock Your Phone and Apps
Enable passcodes to access both your device and any applications that might contain sensitive personal information (e.g. banking, home security/automation systems, email, social networks, etc.). By having both secured, there is an added layer of protection for your personal information should someone crack your phone’s passcode.
Whenever possible, opt for longer passcodes with a variety of upper- and lowercase letters, numerals and symbols. Do not reuse the same password across multiple logins. A password management system can keep track of all passwords.
To further restrict access, configure phone settings so that data is erased if there are too many failed login attempts in a row, and take advantage of biometric features like thumbprint and face recognition.
Be Careful What You Download
Third-party apps can open your phone to vulnerabilities, as they aren’t always vetted for security. Only download apps from trusted sources. Generally speaking, this means the Apple App Store and Google Play, both of which screen apps for basic security features.
Before downloading any app, read the fine print. Understand what you are granting the app access to (e.g. cameras, GPS, photos, etc.) and whether those permissions are necessary. If you find a particular app’s asks too aggressive, choose a different one.
Once downloaded, keep apps maintained. Upgrades typically include security patches that help keep your device protected. Most devices allow for automatic downloads of app upgrades—a helpful feature to keep your device current.
Log out of all apps when not in use and require a passcode for re-entry.
Steer Clear of Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi and hotspots at restaurants, hotels, airports and other highly trafficked locales are not secure. Do not use them to access personal or sensitive data. It is also recommended that you disable automatic connections to these networks, so that you don’t unknowingly connect to an untrustworthy source.
Instead of public Wi-Fi, opt for a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs are available for download in app stores and offer a more secure way to connect while on the go.
Wipe Devices if Lost or Donated
Remote-wipe capabilities enable you to delete data should your phone get lost or stolen. This helps to keep valuable information out of the wrong hands. You’ll also want to back up data to the cloud or your desktop on a regular basis. This way, you won’t lose any information if a wipe is required.
Wipe devices before selling or recycling them, too. In these cases, perform a factory reset and then double check that no lingering data remains.
Secure Sensitive Data
If your phone doesn’t do it by default, turn on storage encryption. Encryption helps ensure that the data stored on your phone is unreadable without passcode verification.
Consider other smaller ways to limit the amount of personally identifiable information stored in your phone. For example, you may want to save a nearby public location in your phone’s GPS versus your actual address for “home,” disable some geo-location features found in the phone, or turn off associated apps tied to your location.
How do you keep your cell phone secure? Share in the comments below.