Smartphones contain a staggering amount of personal data, from family photos to emails and bank accounts. In addition to personal information the devices retail for hundreds of dollars, creating a lucrative black market for stolen phones and parts. These tips are designed to help you secure your smartphone and protect your personal information.
- Practice common sense when using your phone in public. Phone thieves refer to the practice as “Apple picking”. These thieves look for easy targets such as people who leave their phone on a car seat or café table or are otherwise unaware of their surroundings. Avoid presenting opportunities by keeping your phone with you and paying attention to your surroundings.
- If your phone is stolen, file a report. In an effort to curb the rising rate of smartphone theft, some mobile carriers track stolen phones and tablets. Tracking systems only work when thefts are reported to your carrier. While you might not get your phone or tablet back, these systems can help disrupt the market for stolen devices. You should also report any theft to your local police department.
- Set your phone to automatically lock when not in use. Leaving your phone unlocked is asking for trouble. If your phone or tablet is stolen or misplaced, keeping it locked will help protect your data. Some phones and devices can be configured to delete all stored data when an incorrect password is entered multiple times.
- Use strong passwords and update them on a regular basis. Secure passwords include numbers, symbols, lowercase and capital letters. You should not use your name or other easily identifiable information such as a street address or birth date in your password. Do not use the same password for all of your accounts. It is also important to periodically update your passwords.
- Beware of free open Wi-Fi hotspots. Configure your phone to only join networks you approve. Scammers sometimes set up free wireless networks in public places to lure users to log on. Joining the network could allow the scammer to track data going to and from your phone.
- Update your device’s software. Hackers are continually looking for new security flaws to exploit. Many software updates include important security patches that repair known flaws. Failing to update your software or apps may leave you vulnerable to hackers.
- Location and anti-theft applications may help you locate a lost phone or deactivate a stolen phone. There are a wide variety of apps that help users locate a lost or stolen phone. Some apps allow you to delete data remotely or completely disable the device. Check reviews and specifications carefully and test the software before your phone is lost or stolen so you know how to use it when the time comes.
- Use encryption to protect sensitive information. If you use your phone or other mobile device for particularly sensitive business or financial communications, talk to your IT professional about using encryption to protect your data.
- Only download reviewed and tested applications. Some apps and websites may include malicious software designed to capture your personal information. Read reviews and research new apps before installation.
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