9 Tips to Secure Your Smartphone Now

These days, it feels like losing your smartphone would be more troublesome than losing your wallet. Not only does your phone connect you to everyone and everything you care about, it also serves as your digital recorder of all things going on in your life. It connects you to services you use on a daily, even hourly, basis. It’s even starting to replace your wallet. Not to mention, your smartphone is a very expensive piece of hardware to replace.

Given that your smartphone is so important, it’s only logical that you should be as proactive as possible in protecting it. Follow these steps now to secure your smartphone, so you can keep it safe from prying eyes and minimize the damage if it’s ever lost or stolen:

1. Lock Your Screen.

It’s a simple step, but locking your screen is very important in protecting your phone from someone that gets physical access to it. Most phones let you set up at least a 4-digit PIN or a Pattern. Many let you set a full passcode, which is more secure. Once you set up the screen lock, you’ll be prompted for the PIN or code after a designated period of time (and no, the simple Swipe option does not add any additional protection).

For iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch:

1. Launch “Settings”
2. Open Touch ID & Passcode (or just Passcode)
3. Tap “Turn Passcode On”

For Android:

1. Launch “Settings”
2. Under “Personal” tap “Security”
3. Under “Screen security”, tap “Screen lock”
4. Touch the screen lock you’d like to use and follow the prompts

2. Set a Timeout.

After you set the screen lock on your device, set a timer so that you’re prompted to enter the PIN or passcode after a period of inactivity, preferably a short one.

For iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch:

1. Launch “Settings”
2. Tap “General”
3. Tap “Auto-Lock”
4. Tap the time limit after which you’ll be prompted

For Android:

1. Launch “Settings”
2. Under “Personal” tap “Security”
3. Under “Screen security”, tap “Automatically lock”
4. Tap the time limit after which you’ll be prompted

3. Use Strong Passwords.

Protecting the information that you send and receive on your phone is just as important as preventing physical access to it. That’s why a strong, different password should be used for every single web service, app, and account you sign up for. Using a password manager like LastPass that works not only on mobile but on your desktop and laptop, too, will help you create, remember, and use strong passwords for every account across every device.

4. Avoid Rooting Your Phone.

Especially popular among Android users, rooting a phone lets you modify parts of the operating system that the phone or service provider normally wouldn’t let you change, like removing pre-installed apps and running custom applications. However, rooting your phone can open it up to more malware that can compromise your personal information. It’s better to leave the rooting to the “experts”.

5. Stick to Trusted Apps.

If you’re not familiar with the maker of an app, take the time to do some research and look over the reviews. If you can’t verify the author of an app, or if you were sent the download outside of the app store, think twice before continuing with it. And if any of the permissions that the app requests seem overreaching, it’s probably best to pass. Regularly review your installed apps as well and remove those you no longer use.

6. Always Install Updates.

Believe it or not, the operating systems and apps you run on your devices don’t just push out updates to inconvenience you (though it often feels that way). Companies are constantly updating their software and apps with important patches for vulnerabilities, fixes for bugs, and overall stability and performance improvements. It’s critical to let those updates install when you’re prompted so that you’re not risking your privacy or personal information.

7. Back Up Data.

It’s likely you store a lot of information on your smartphone – contacts, photos, notes, articles and more. Be sure to turn on sync for your data, or make a habit of regularly backing it up to other storage devices.

8. Be Careful With Open WiFi.

Yes, we know it’s unrealistic to completely avoid open WiFi, especially if you travel a lot. And it’s true that connecting to WiFi has advantages, namely better data speeds and saving on data usage costs. However, if you’re going to connect to WiFi on your phone, remember to turn it off when it’s not in use, and double-check your settings to make sure you don’t auto-connect to any open network that’s in your vicinity. Try to avoid doing anything sensitive on open WiFi. If you must, then change your passwords when you’re back on a trusted connection.

9. Track Down Your Phone.

If your smartphone does go missing, there are features you can take advantage of to try to recover your phone, or to remotely secure your data. iPhone and iPad users can take advantage of Apple’s Find My iPhone app to track where the device is and switch it to Lost Mode – or wipe the data, if needed. Android users can do the same with Google’s Android Device Manager. There are also a number of paid third-party apps that offer more tracking and remote security options.

Conclusion

Following these tips to secure your smartphone will help you better protect your personal information as you use your phone, and minimizes risks of unauthorized access to your phone itself should it ever fall into the wrong hands.

And if you only have time today to put one or two of these into practice, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of steps #1 and #2. Take one minute to add a lock screen to your device and then set a reasonable time limit for your smartphone to lock.

Have any other mobile security tips? Share in the comments below!

11 Comments

  • jonathan says:

    windows mobile phone tip: use an OS other than windows, same goes for desktop or laptop

    • Anonymous says:

      Good

    • Ryan Lemieux says:

      That’s the stupidest advice I’ve ever read! I don’t use Windows Phone, but I use it as a desktop OS for a very good reason: many of the software and hardware I use on a daily basis exclusively depends on Windows. Giving up Windows would mean I have to give up all the software and hardware and there is no way in hell I would ever consider that. Millions of Windows users worldwide use it for the same reason. Even naysayers would agree with me on this. And besides, Windows (especially the lastest version) has come a long ways from a security standpoint. The argument that Windows is less secure than other OSes is tiresome and outdated.

    • Charles says:

      I have a Windows Phone and recently lost it in a cab. The next passenger grabbed it thinking it was theirs then left it at a random party.

      With the ‘Find My Phone’ feature I logged into my account, used the GPS to narrow the location down to one of two houses, locked my phone remotely and put up a message on-screen to call my friend to return the phone. Then, I rang the phone remotely so somebody would find it and call my friend.

      It all worked perfectly and I recovered my phone right away. Worked great for me so I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

  • nunzio says:

    Please,
    don’t forget Windows Phone Mobile tips.
    Thank you

    • Charles says:

      Thanks for the misinformation! Super useful.

      • Charles says:

        Crud. Sorry nunzio! Because of the sort order I thought you were joining in the post above…. I really wish I could delete my previous comment!

  • TgeekB says:

    #10 – Use a Blackberry

    • Steve says:

      #11 – Don’t use a Blackberry.

      • Christopher says:

        That’s a silly advice considering the Blackberry is regarded as the most secure mobile platform. That’s why it’s the preferred choice of governments and enterprises.