Episode 2: Top tech tricks to protect the valuable info on your smartphone
Remember when mobile telephones were brick-like devices that cost thousands of dollars and only had a battery life of 30 minutes?
It was just 33 years ago, yet in that time those clunky phones have transformed into pocket-sized PCs that carry much of our personal and financial information.
Doubt that much could be learned about you by cracking your smartphone’s security code?
Consider what apps you may have downloaded to your phone – for starters, mobile banking apps provide access to your accounts, ride-hailing apps often record your home address, travel apps detail your flight bookings and holiday plans, e-commerce apps contain your recent purchases, and location services reveal where you are or have been.
Then there is the more detailed information about yourself, family, and friends that you may have innocently provided in emails and social media posts …
That’s why it’s important to take the security of your phone as seriously as you do that of your bank cards.
Luckily, there are six simple tech tricks that add an additional layer of protection for the valuable information it contains.
- Only download apps from official app stores
Ignore emails or texts that encourage you to download apps.
Links in an email or a text could lead you to a fake App Store, Play Store, Amazon App Store or similar, where the app you download may be hiding a virus or malware such as a Trojan, that’s designed to surreptitiously steal your information.
- Use a complex, unique password for each app and site
Using your mother’s maiden name or your pet’s name doesn’t cut it any more – once guessed (and it’s probably not too hard for an experienced cybercriminal to do so)
Setting up and remembering hard-to-guess passwords for each of your online accounts and apps, and changing them regularly, is easier if you use an online password manager. These managers remember your existing passwords and help you create new ones, usually by integrating with your web browser and recording the passwords as you type them.
There are many free password managers available online. PC Mag picked LastPass 4.0 and LogMeOnce as the best choices available in 2017.
- Always lock your smart phone
Whether you use fingerprint recognition, a PIN, or something higher-locking your smartphone is important not just because it makes it less attractive to opportunistic thieves who wish to re-sell it.
If someone’s able to access your phone, they also likely to have access to your apps and email, and the ability to reset your password, locking you out of your own email account as well as potentially uncovering sufficient information to impersonate you.
It’s also wise to turn off your discoverable Bluetooth and location services when you’re not using them, to prevent your movements being tracked.
Many apps and sites now offer second-factor authentication (2FA), which means a user must input a second layer of information after their username and password to obtain access. It’s worth setting up 2FA on your most important accounts, such as your email, social media, and banking apps, if it’s available.
Some phones are also now available with extra security features, such as iris scanners, facial and voice recognition, ‘shake pattern’ recognition (yes, it recognises how you shake your phone!), and fingerprint sensors. But while these may be convenient and give you additional peace of mind, they’re not currently considered replacements for vigilant use of more basic security functions, such as the ones listed in this story.
- Keep your software and apps up to date
Regularly check your phone’s app store for the icon that indicates your apps are due for an update, and make sure you update when prompted. Also, follow your phone-maker’s prompts to undertake operating system updates.
This is important because updates usually include fixes for any new security holes that may’ve been identified by phone and app makers.
- Add a keyword to your phone account
Mobile providers are usually happy help keep your data safe by adding a keyword to your account you quote when you call them, so consider setting one up.
- Use your PC’s virus protector on your phone
Did you know that many of the software programs used to protect home computers from viruses and malware have an option that allows you to also use them on your phone. Check the terms of your existing anti-virus program to see if it covers mobile devices, or consider purchasing separate protection for your phone.
Do you protect your smartphone as carefully as your bank cards? Are you wary about what you post on social?