Smartphones have come a long way — not only do they allow us to make calls, listen to music, and surf the Internet, but they also contain our personal data, and lots of it. Emails, photos, text messages and private documents stored on smartphones are at a high risk, especially when there is no form of security to prevent them from leaking onto the Internet or falling into the wrong hands. Securing your smartphone requires common sense, and taking certain precautionary measures will drastically minimize your privacy risk. Here are a few tips we’ve put together to help you secure your smartphone.
1) Set Up A Lock Screen
This is the first thing to do before you start using your smartphone. Locking your screen prevents unauthorized users from accessing your phone. You can use either a PIN, password, pattern, face unlock, fingerprint or other vendor-specific locking mechanism to lock your phone.
- Go to Settings > General > Touch ID & Passcode.
- Follow the procedures to create your passcode.
For Fingerprint security on iPhone 5S and later
- Go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode.
- First set up a passcode and then follow the prompts to enable Touch ID.
iOS Screen Lock Tips
- Disable the Simple Password option to use more complex, alphanumeric passcodes.
- Enable Erase Data to automatically erase your device after ten failed attempts.
- Set the Require Passcode option to immediately.
Setting up screen locks on Android is not as straightforward as that of iOS since it varies vendor-wise, but searching for terms like Security or Lock Screen in the settings will lead you to set up your lock screen. These steps are, however, based on stock Android L.
- Go to Settings > Lock Screen > Screen Lock.
- Select Pattern, PIN, Password, Fingerprint, etc.
- Follow the procedures to complete the screen lock setup.
Android Screen Lock Tips
- Avoid using easy patterns like a “Z.”
- Clean your screen regularly to wipe your greasy finger-trails.
- Don’t use lame PINs like 1234 or 1111 — choose codes that can’t easily be guessed.
- Don’t use facial recognition if your front camera does not perform well in low-lighting.
- Set the screen to lock immediately when the phone sleeps.
2) Encrypt Your Phone
The majority of smartphone users fail to encrypt their phone, which is very important to do. Encrypting your phone prevents people from accessing your data offline, either through Recovery or another mode. The latest versions of Android and iOS, however, come with out-of-the-box encryption. To encrypt your phone, follow the steps below.
- Go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode.
- Create a passcode if you haven’t yet or move to the next step if you already have.
- Scroll to the bottom of the screen and ensure that “Data Protection is Enabled” is visible.
- Go to Settings > Security > Encrypt Phone.
- Select Encrypt Phone at the bottom of the screen.
- Confirm the encryption and follow the instructions displayed on the screen.
3) Turn off Wireless Protocols When Not in Use
Many people leave their Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or NFC on more often than not. Aside from draining your battery quickly, it opens a door for bad guys to use rogue wireless access points, sniffing tools, and other sophisticated techniques to extract data from your smartphone. Disable your Wi-Fi and other wireless radio once you’re done using them. Also, never accept requests from unknown devices trying to connect to your phone. If you don’t know how to disable your Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc., follow the guide below.
- Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to view the Control Center.
- Tap the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth icon to turn it off. You’ll know it’s off when it grays out.
- Swipe from the right-hand side (Or down from the top depending on version of Android) of the screen to access the Quick Settings panel.
- Tap the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC icon to turn if off. It will gray out once it’s been turned off.
4) Avoid Root / Jailbreak / Custom Roms
Jailbreaking your iPhone or rooting your Android grants you full access to the operating system, which, by default, is restricted to guarantee your safety. Rooting and jailbreaking does provide you with a wide range of tweaking possibilities, but in turn, exposes your phone to malware, hackers, and all the bad stuff you can think of. Although Android’s SuperUser app protects the phones from unauthorized access to root privileges, that’s still not good enough.
While most of us techies love custom mobile setups, it’s impossible to tell which servers’ custom roms communicate with and what data are being sent. Although they offer a better experience, it comes at your own risk.
While there is no comparative for Apple device, Android users should keep “Unknown Sources” disabled unless you are installing an app you trust. Always install applications from the Google Play Store or App Store.
5) Update your Operating System Regularly
Smartphone manufacturers release regular updates to improve upon the User Interface, provide more features, and most importantly, patch security and stability flaws. Refraining from updating your smartphone exposes it to these flaws and then leaves it to the mercy of attackers. Make it a priority to update your operating system whenever it’s available. Also update your downloaded applications regularly since they may sometimes contain bugs which could be dangerous to your smartphone. These steps will guide you in updating your OS:
- Make sure your phone is fully charged and connected to Wi-Fi access point with a working Internet connection.
- Go to Settings > General > Software Update.
- Tap Download and Install.
- Tap Install to update your OS once it’s finished downloading.
- Make sure your phone is fully charged and connected to a working wireless network.
- Go to Settings > About Phone > Software Update.
- Tap Update Software and wait for the update to download.
- Choose Install when asked to install the update.
If your support for your phone has ended, which is usually seen in the Android system, downloading a security app can help improve your phone’s security to some extent.
6) Use A VPN
Everybody loves free Wi-Fi, but some of the most dangerous cyber attacks originate from public Wi-Fi access points at restaurants, bars, and hotels. Malicious attackers can use their technical knowledge to perform Man-In-The-Middle attacks and gain access to your personal information. If you can’t avoid using public networks, you better use a VPN. A VPN allows you to connect to the Internet through a secure, encrypted private tunnel. Newshosting offers a VPN service as both a standalone service and as an add-on to Usenet subscriptions. Want to configure your Android or iOS device with our VPN? Look no further! (See also: New to Newshosting? Start a free VPN trial today!)
7) Use a Remote Control Service
All the major mobile operating systems have now incorporated remote control and killswitch features to enable you to interact with your phone if it’s been stolen or missing. This service enables you to track, lock, wipe and even contact your phone by using another device connected to the Internet. With this, your data is kept out of the wrong hands even if the device falls into them. Apple’s Find my iPhone and Android’s Android Device Manager gives you remote access to iOS and Android devices respectively. To set these up, follow the instructions outlined below.
- Go to Settings > iCloud. Sign in with your Apple ID or sign up for one if you don’t have one.
- Flick the “Find My iPhone” switch to the right to turn it on.
- Go to iCloud.com and sign in with your Apple ID.
- Use the controls in the dashboard to send specific instructions to your iPhone.
- From the app drawer, open Google Settings.
- Tap Security.
- Under Android Device Manager, turn on “Remotely locate this device” and “Remote lock and factory reset.” Go to Settings and turn on Location.
- Go to http://www.android.com/devicemanager and see if your device shows up.
- Use the controls to interact with your device remotely.
As long as your devices are connected to the Internet, you can’t enforce 100% privacy on them; however, these strategies will go a long way in keeping your smartphone secure at all times.
Do you have more tips or experiences in securing smartphones? Share them in the comments section below!