Remember the 90s when car phones were all the rage, you dialed up your internet access, and our mobile phones didn’t contain every personal detail about us?
When we fast-forward to today’s smartphone and think about all of the personal data it holds, you might wonder . . . how smart are we actually being with our phone security?
Here’s a sobering fact: The U.S. took the number one spot for mobile ransomware in 2018, with 63% of the world’s infected mobile phones.1 Yikes!
So now’s the time to secure your phone (and keep it that way.) We’ll show you how.
1. Use a Full Password Instead of a Passcode
Did you know you can use an actual password to unlock your phone? Sure, it’s quick and easy to just punch in a few numbers or draw a pattern—but using a password will give you a better chance at keeping your phone secure. (And no, passwords like “password0” and “abc123” just don’t cut it anymore.)
When you’re creating a password:
Avoid using family names or birthdays.
Use a memorable phrase or a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters to keep it strong.
Use your phone’s fingerprint or face recognition technology as an extra layer of security.
If you have an iPhone, you can also enable the Erase All Content and Settings feature, which means if you do have a passcode and it’s unsuccessfully entered 10 times, all of your phone’s data will be wiped out. But having this feature enabled is probably not the best idea if you have a toddler who likes to play with mom or dad’s phone while it’s locked!
2. Install Updates on Your Phone
We’ve all been guilty of ignoring our phone’s notifications that ask us to install the latest software updates. Delaying it for just one more day can’t hurt, right?
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But if you aren’t installing your phone’s latest updates when prompted, you could be leaving yourself wide open to security threats. Those updates make sure that any bugs or weaknesses found since the last update are squashed—basically beefing up your phone’s security from threats out there in cyberspace.
Android users are especially guilty of not updating their phones as often as they should. In 2018, only 24% of Android devices were updated to the current operating system, compared to 78% of iOS (Apple) users.2
A few key takeaways about updating your phone security:
If you have a newer Android phone, it will probably be a model that lets you know when updates are available. Make sure you don’t delay these—as tempting as it is!
If your phone is being suspiciously quiet about updates and never prompts you for any, it’s time to upgrade to a new model!
Don’t forget to update devices you might not have thought of—like your Apple Watch. It’s an extension of your phone, so be sure to take the same precautions to keep it safe.
3. Use Two-Factor Authentication
Want to know what all the cool kids are doing to protect their phones? Turning on two-factor authentication! Because if someone does get ahold of your password, two-factor authentication gives you another layer of data protection.
Two-factor authentication works like this: If you (or someone else) are trying to sign in to your account from another device, you’ll need to pass an extra level of security with a six-digit verification code. All the big hitters these days (like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Amazon) feature two-factor authentication when you’re logging in from a new device.
This code is sent to one of your trusted devices via a text or a phone call. The device could be your phone itself, a Mac, PC, iPad or even a security token or dongle (which can be bought separately to sync up with your Apple or Android products).
Here’s how to turn on two-factor authentication:
For Android: You’ll need to log in to your Google account to enable this. Go to Settings, select 2-Step Verification, and follow the prompts from there.
For iPhone: Open Settings and tap on your name at the top of the screen. Then tap Password & Security and follow the prompts.
4. Use Anti-Virus Software
If you’re an iPhone user, antivirus software isn’t really an urgent need because Apple has designed their products, operating systems and apps to contain their own shields and defenses against viruses from the outside.
But for folks with Android phones, you really do need it if you want to keep your phone secure. Google Play Protect will cover the basics of security on your phone (and will run safety checks on apps you’re installing and regularly check the apps you already have).
Ransomware is a big deal. It’s what happens when your phone’s data is corrupted through a downloaded file—that on the surface seems ok to you—and then orders you to pay a ransom if you want your files back. Scary, right? And those ransomware infections on mobile devices were up 33% in 2018 compared to 2017!3
So it’s a good idea to add another layer of anti-malware protection. Anti-malware programs help keep your phone safe from aggressive security threats that could lock your phone and encrypt your files.
Look into trusted companies like Norton who offer mobile security at both free and premium options.
5. Delete Apps You Don’t Use
There seems to be an app for everything. How did we function before them? (Spoiler alert—just fine, but that’s a blog for another day!)
Each app on your phone contains its own batch of potential security issues. And many apps want permission to access things like your contacts, photos, GPS location and even your microphone.
Here’s how to keep on top of your app housekeeping:
If you’re not using an app, just go ahead and uninstall it. The fewer apps on your phone, the less open you are to potential attacks. It frees up storage on your phone too!
Review what your apps can have access to by going to your phone’s Settings tab and then Apps and Permissions. You can always limit permissions by tweaking these settings.
Whatever you do, don’t click on suspicious or unusual files and links sent to you in an email, text message or app—no matter what they’re promising and how urgent it sounds. When in doubt, just don’t click on it!
Only download apps from your phone’s primary app store (like Google Play Store, Apple’s App Store and Samsung’s Galaxy Apps). When you install an app from a random website, you’re letting in potential malware threats.
In fact, installing an app on your iPhone from outside of Apple’s App Store is pretty tricky and known as “jailbreaking” your iPhone. Sounds serious—and it is! Don’t attempt it. It’s an open invitation for threats like viruses and malware into your iPhone from unauthorized apps.
6. Avoid Connecting to Public Wi-Fi
Be selective about the open Wi-Fi networks you connect to on your phone. We know that free internet is tempting when you’re waiting in line at Starbucks. But everyone sitting around you is probably using that same unsecured network.
That means (if they wanted to) they could gain access to your information pretty easily. It’s not worth putting yourself at risk of identity theft.
If you just have to catch up on your social media while you pass the time, it’s always better to stick with your phone’s data. Yes, that means you’re using up your data—but it’s a small price to pay to avoid a potential hack until you’re back somewhere with a secure Wi-Fi connection.
7. Back Up Your Phone
Whether your phone is lost, stolen or damaged beyond repair, backing up the data on it is a must. There are plenty of reasons why you should back up your phone, and one of the biggest is to keep all of your photos, videos and personal information saved somewhere in case your phone is lost or stolen.
Backing up your phone:
If you don’t want to back up your phone the old-fashioned way (by actually plugging it into a computer), there are many cloud storage options that make it easy to back up your phone remotely—including Apple iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive.
To save to the cloud, both iPhone and Android users have seamless options. With Apple, all you have to do is back up your phone with iCloud. For Android, you’re covered with Google Drive.If you like to mix things up by using an Android phone and an Apple computer, you’ll need to download the Android File Transfer app first.
If you’re not sure where your phone is:
iPhones offer the Find My iPhone feature, and Androids have a Find My Device feature. Activate them on your phone and they will help you track it down if you’ve misplaced it, or let you remotely wipe your data if it’s been stolen.
You can use Find My iPhone on your other devices (like an iPad, Apple Watch or Mac) by signing in to the Find My iPhone app. Or just go to iCloud.com/find. Once you’ve selected Find my iPhone, you will see its location and have it play a sound if it’s close.
For lost Android phones, log in to android.com/find with your Google account, and you’ll be able to track your phone’s location and make it ring (even if it’s on silent or vibrate).
These tools and tips we’ve laid out can work to secure your phone against malware and hackers. For an added layer of security across all of your personal information, get Zander’s Identity Theft Protection plan. They’ll monitor your information and alert you when it’s at risk, and provide complete recovery services if you ever become a victim.