Modern technology has affected almost every aspect of our lives, from productivity, socialisation, healthcare, transport, and safety. Technology paved the way for multi-functional devices like smartphones which are portable high-powered, and fast computers make our lives faster, better, easier, and more fun. Most of us use our smartphones throughout the day to socialise, browse, shop, bank, and even telework. That makes cell phone security an impending and pressing issue that needs proper attention.
But as we always stay logged in to our multiple accounts for convenience, it can mean anyone having access to our handset has access to everything. In the worst case, the lost or stolen phone can lead to identity theft, money, or even personal information of friends and family. As per the Crime Survey for England & Wales (CSEW) data, an estimated 325,000 individuals experienced mobile phone thefts during 2020.
Things don’t end there, and even when you see your phone in front of you, it isn’t entirely safe. Malware is another risk that can steal your information and taint your online reputation. Recently security experts highlighted a dangerous malware affecting over nine million Android devices.
It was a type of malware designed to steal information and sensitive user data. Whereas, the emerging markets are hit by one of the biggest digital fraud affecting 18 million devices – one user in every six users affected by malware.
Our smartphones house personal and sensitive information, track location and are significantly involved in financial matters. It’s ever more critical to have tools and techniques to protect your privacy and respond to any tech abuse.
Fortunately, there are certain steps you can take to ensure that your smartphones are protected from everyone’s access, even if you lose them or not.
- 1. Use A Screen Lock On Your Smartphone
- 2. Protect Sensitive Data
- 3. Use Unknown Applications With Caution
- 4. Back Up Your Data
- 5. Use Security Software
- 6. Update Your Phone Regularly
- 7. Use Public Wi-fi Carefully
- 8. Secure Your Online Accounts
- 9. Use Two-factor Authentication
- 10. Stop Jailbreaking Or Rooting Your Device
1. Use A Screen Lock On Your Smartphone
Screen lock provides the first and very essential layer of security. Every modern smartphone comes preloaded with multiple methods for locking the device. Some techniques are more secure, while others offer convenience and swiftness. You can protect your phone’s lock screen with a PIN code, password, fingerprint, or even a face ID.
If you don’t want anyone to access your smartphone, you better use a lock screen to prevent unwanted access. However, not all options are equal, and a pattern may seem easy to you, but it’s not as secure as the fingerprint or a PIN code. Passwords and PIN codes are incredibly secure, where a 16 digit PIN equates to 10 quadrillion combinations. Even a four-digit PIN requires 10 thousand combinations.
Today users also combine multiple verification systems to bulletproof their smartphone security, using multi-factor authentication deems to be the best option for user accounts and device safety. A fingerprint lock reinforced with a strong password or PIN code works best for most users.
Whatever option you select, you can set it up on your Android, iOS, or any other OS-based smartphone by going into the device’s security settings.
Set up the screen lock on iPhone:
- Open the “Settings” app on iPhone.
- Go to the “Face ID & Passcode” option.
- Turn on Passcode and enter a six-digit code (other security options can be explored in the same menu).
Set up the screen lock on Android: (options usually vary depending on the device and the flavour of Android OS you have)
- Open the “Settings” app.
- Look for “Security” or “Lock Screen Security” settings in the menu.
- Enable the lock screen option.
2. Protect Sensitive Data
The screen lock mechanisms such as PIN and password are usually enough to keep people from accessing your smartphone. But today, smartphones are effectively a minicomputer with their own removable storage. Simply preventing someone from getting into your phone isn’t sufficient. It’s considerably easier to retrieve data from any smartphone just by plugging it into a computer system or removing the microSD card.
It’s highly recommended to protect any sensitive data stored on the internal storage and SD cards. There are multiple solutions available that can shield your data from any prying eye. Most modern smartphone software provides the option to encrypt files and folders with industry-standard protection. This means the files will only be accessible once the code is entered.
That way, you can protect your passwords, account details, login details, and other information that can lead any hacker to access your online accounts and financial information.
Security experts also recommend storing such sensitive data on secure online servers remotely rather than on a smartphone. That would prevent any data theft directly from the phone and safeguard any data even when the handheld is lost or stolen.
3. Use Unknown Applications With Caution
Another essential aspect often overlooked is protecting a smartphone against third-party and unknown applications. There are loads of third-party app stores promising you apps with more features or unlock certain aspects of paid applications. Many risks come along with apps from these unknown and most malicious apps.
The key implication of downloading a software application on your smartphone from a third-party app store or any website is that it can primarily infect the device with malicious software. The malware is designed to steal data or even take control of the device.
Google Play and Apple AppStore are the two leading and biggest official app stores with strict security and app approval restrictions. Any apps available on these stores usually go through strict development criteria. For approval to be published on these stores, the moderators thoroughly check and vet the app for any bad stuff like malware or unnecessary user permissions with malicious intent.
4. Back Up Your Data
In any case, one should be prepared for the worst that can happen. The same goes for your smartphone. It’s the nucleus of most of our daily information flow and has personal and work data. It becomes critical to protect the smartphone’s documents, multimedia, and attached accounts.
There’s always a possibility of you losing, damaging, dropping the phone in water, malware rendering your device useless, or the phone is stolen. In any such misfortunate situation, the best solution is a backup of your phone. A backup also makes transitioning to a new device quickly.
Regularly take backups of your smartphone, including contacts, SMS, photos, calendar, music, ringtones, user settings, videos, and any other selected files and folders. The backup will allow you to access your data anywhere, even without your smartphone.
5. Use Security Software
Mobile technology has become an essential part of our personal and business needs, with most of the data stored on our smartphones. All your social media, financial accounts, emails, everything is accessible from your mobile device. An antivirus security software can protect your device from unwanted viruses and malware intending to breach your data.
The antivirus app continuously monitors your device from malicious software and malware by scanning apps, files, and any web traffic your device receives. That way, the antivirus ensures your device and the associated accounts are secure.
There are loads of antivirus apps for Android anyway. As Apple uses a closed ecosystem, the antivirus software has limitations in performing on iOS devices. However, the secure system of iPhones makes them slightly less susceptible to the risk of getting infected.
6. Update Your Phone Regularly
The operating system developers are continuously improving and augmenting the security, fixing any impending security issues and bugs that can potentially expose the device to any form of information and data hack.
It’s a constantly evolving world with daily changes where people with evil intent try to find loopholes in the OS that can give them entry into the system, allowing them to steal personal data. Whereas the OS developers continuously work to bulletproof their devices through constantly patching the security issues.
Smaller and frequent updates usually fix issues add minor feature fixtures and security updates. Security updates roll out often, patching any security breaches and securing the device from malicious attacks by fixing security lapses.
It’s highly recommended to enable auto-updates and check for software updates whenever you get a chance. To check for software updates on Android phones, go to Settings > System > Software update. Then click the “Check for update” button to check if updates are available.
Check software updates on iOS devices. Go to Settings > General > Software update. It will show if any updates are available, click on download and install to get the update.
7. Use Public Wi-fi Carefully
It’s getting hard not to use open and public Wi-Fi networks when you’re out and about and need reliable connectivity to perform an online transaction or attend a meeting. Usually, it’s common practice to connect your phone to an unprotected Wi-Fi network when you’re at a coffee shop to connect to the internet from your mobile phone.
Almost every one of us has been there. So, if you must use an open Wi-Fi network in any circumstance, you should use a VPN app for your mobile device against unprotected internet sources. A virtual private network (VPN) will bolster your mobile security by preventing any third party to pry on your data flowing from and to your device. VPN does that by connecting to an external server and masking the IP to hide the device’s actual location.
8. Secure Your Online Accounts
Phones today have multiple online accounts attached to them. Usually, these accounts are with the phone company and the cloud service to store personal data such as contacts, photos, calendars, and more. Most commonly, the accounts are Google or iCloud accounts to connect to the operating system that provides services.
You should review security settings and update passwords every now and then to ensure no one can gain access to your online accounts.
9. Use Two-factor Authentication
Another great way to prevent spammers from accessing your sensitive information is by securing your online accounts with multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA is, usually known as two-factor authentication (2FA), augments the usually prevalent practice of using only a password.
Even using strong passwords can be scooped up easily by several methods. You need a second layer of security in the verification process. That’s the very reason most online services and applications offer 2FA. There are usually three factors for authentication – passwords, cell phone or hardware token, and fingerprint. With 2FA, you’re using any two of these options. Whereas in multi-factor, you might be using even more than two.
The extra authentication usually is simply a numeric string, several digits sent to your phone that can be used only once. You get the code via text message or by using an “authenticator” app allowing you to get access to your online accounts.
10. Stop Jailbreaking Or Rooting Your Device
There are fundamentally two possibilities that your smartphone can be compromised, either when someone physically gets access to your device or access it remotely. Remotely accessing your device can only be done with malware installed, giving the intruder a backdoor. And your smartphone is likely more at risk from such as thing happening if you don’t hold on to the official app stores and services.
Jailbreaking or rooting your smartphone removes the limitations from Apple or Android OS and associated carriers by allowing full access to the phone’s operating system. It’s essentially hacking your device that opens security holes and undermines the manufacturer’s built-in security measures. These devices are more susceptible to malware and viruses because they can easily install apps that avoid Google and Apple application vetting processes.
You might find many compelling reasons to jailbreak or root your smartphone, such as accessing a pool of apps and features that aren’t available on stock phones. But by venturing into the dark, you’re opening your smartphone to potential intrusions from virus prone apps and operating systems software. You might be getting full access to your device’s capabilities, but along with that, you’re inviting unwanted friends – viruses and malware.
Some security concerns might be platform-specific, but overall, the ever-changing nature of threats. And the smartphone dynamics make it essential to be aware of the possible paths your data can be stolen. All the abovementioned tips and advice can be beneficial in safeguarding and backing up essential data.
It’s highly recommended to adopt these safe practices as a standard to prevent your smartphone from hackers and malicious people. Most thieves and spammers are opportunists who will target those who don’t protect their data effectively.