Whether you have and an iPhone, Android, Windows or Blackberry device we all use them in very similar ways. We are connected to them all day for work and play. We pass important information through them; passwords, Social Security numbers, banking details and the list goes on. The smartphone is a necessity in our daily lives, but it can also be the root of so many of our problems. Whether it’s protecting your data when you lose your phone, safeguarding yourself from a virus or a hack, or trying to mitigate the risk of identity theft there are some very simple steps to help safeguard your phone and its data.
Use your PIN lock
Every major phone maker offers password-protected lock screens. Your first step should be to enable the PIN lock feature. Most users utilize a A four digit PIN (Personal Identification Number) but many phones allow you to create a longer eight digit code for added security. Setting up a PIN lock will keep your personal data safe from unwanted onlookers and phone thieves alike. To minimize the annoyance of having to continually enter your PIN, set your phone’s auto-lock to occur after a few minutes of inactivity. You can also look into setting up your thumbprint scan so you can avoid needing the use of two hands to access your phone and bypass typing in the PIN code.
Inputting your password every time you need to unlock your phone can be a hassle, but in the event someone tries to steal your data, eavesdrop or your phone is lost, you’ll be happy that you took that extra second every time you accessed your phone. When your phone does get lost or stolen, and it will, you can always use iCloud (for the iPhone and iPad) and the Android Device Manager to lock your device remotely and even wipe its memory if you feel necessary.
Backup your data
The second step you should take is to backup your data. Phone thieves and viruses aren't the only things you need to worry about. Misplacing your phone can be devastating if you aren't backing up your data on a regular basis. There are many ways to back your data up to the cloud. Google Drive, SkyDrive, Dropbox, Box and iCloud are all great ways to automate a regular backups of your phone’s data so that you can access your content from any wifi or cellular connected device at anytime. However, even with data encryption and two-step verification Dropbox, iCloud and others have been known to get hacked from time-to-time. We recommend backing your phone’s data up to your personal computer or to an external hard drive to ensure that your data is truly secure.
Install an antivirus app
If you use an iPhone you are likely in the clear here and won’t be needing antivirus protection. Viruses can easily cause sensitive data to become compromised and no longer available. If you’re an Android user you should consider installing an antivirus app to protect your phone from malicious software. There are many free apps that help to protect your phone from malicious attacks. Before installing any antivirus apps make sure to verify that they are legitimate and respected applications. Sometime fraudulent apps portray themselves as antivirus products only to turn around and attack your phone or steal your data.
Because the Google Play Store has lax rules on which apps can be downloaded and installed and the fact that such a large percentage of the world uses Android phones, the majority of malware targets those devices. Make sure to only install approved apps from the Google Play Store and this will help mitigate the risk of acquiring a virus.
Use a Faraday case
The first three steps for protecting your phone are widely known and have been a standard for managing your data and privacy for sometime now. More recently as NFC (Near Field Communication) has become more popular in smartphones to enable digital payments, there are new security concerns to be worried about. And, while storing our banking information in our phones and using them as wallets is very convenient it has opened up a whole new world to scam artist. NFC skimming and wireless hacking allows scam artist to digitally lift your phone’s most sensitive data via NFC frequencies and open bluetooth or wifi connections. You should think twice about connecting to public wifi and leaving your phone’s bluetooth enabled while in malls, large events, airports, public transportation and other public places. However, If you really want to ensure that your phone’s data is secure, your best bet is to utilize a Faraday cage. A Faraday cage can be any sleeve, bag or case that blocks your Radio Frequencies including NFC signal from being detected (125kHz, 13.56mHz, 700mHz-5gHz). Of course you won’t be able to make phone calls or receive data while inside the Faraday cage, but you will rest easy knowing that your banking and personal identity won’t be access, and well you can become undetectable to the world. When you determine you’re in a safe place you can open the cage so that your phone is free to send and receive information.
With most things there is no 100% guarantee that your data will be safe but following the above recommendations will give you a fighting chance.
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