For many of us, our smart phones function as our personal assistants, social calendars, computers, cameras, banking terminals, virtual shopping malls, and, of course, phones. Mobile life is incredibly convenient, but as we entrust more and more of our lives to mobile devices, we’re also entrusting more and more personal information to them. To keep all that information safe, we need to be smart about using our phones and tablets.
Each mobile operating system, device, and model is different, but here are some things you can do on any phone to keep yourself and your information safe:
- Use a lock-screen and strong passwords! A study several years ago found that 62% of smartphone users don’t even set passwords on their phones. Your phone could easily fall into the wrong hands, so set a password, set up fingerprint recognition, if the phone supports it, and set the screen to lock after a short period of inactivity. The longer your phone is unlocked, the longer a thief would have to misuse it.
- Update your software. As with any computer, keeping up to date with security patches is the best way to protect your mobile device.
- Install a security app. Anti-virus and anti-malware apps are available for mobile devices as well as desktop computers.
- Turn on encryption: You can encrypt the data on your mobile device. On iOS, data is encrypted if you set a passcode or use fingerprint recognition. On Android devices, encryption is under the Settings.
- Don’t transmit personal information over public wi-fi networks. If that online flash sale is too good to pass up, it’s worth using a little of your cellular data plan to transmit credit card info over a more secure network.
- Limit location services and sharing with advertisers. Mobile service providers track your behavior and sell that information to advertisers. There’s an option to limit that under your device’s privacy settings. Also, set up your device and apps to always ask before using location services. Of course you need them to get driving directions, but a game app doesn’t need them.
- Set up device finder and remote wipe: A device finder allows you to locate your device if it’s lost, and remote wipe destroys all the data on it. That way, you can tell if your device has fallen into the wrong hands and keep the thief’s hands off your personal information. (Obviously, you would only do this if you’re pretty sure the data is at risk. This can’t be undone, so you should back up your device regularly to another computer or to the cloud.)
Apps are another common source of problems, so only buy apps from your app store and from well-rated vendors. That’s not a guarantee (even a few iOS apps have been found to contain malicious software), but at least it lowers the chances you’ll download something bad.