10 Steps to Better Smartphone Security

Let’s face it: a smartphone really isn’t a phone. A smartphone is really a pocket-sized computer on which you can also make and receive calls. And aside from the calling function, your smartphone is just as vulnerable to security issues as your laptop – if not more so, because it’s so small and portable.

smartphone securityThink about the many ways you use your smartphone. Besides the obvious “phone” function, you likely surf the web, check your email, do your banking, play games, and shop. If your phone gets lost or stolen, then whoever ends up with it can do all of those things, too – using your information.

Because of the relative ease in portability, smartphones are in dire need of security measures. Below, a list of security measures you may want to consider in order to keep your smartphone and your data safe:

  1. Keep your eye (and your hand) on your smartphone at all times.
    Treat it as if it were your wallet with $500 in it. If you wouldn’t leave your wallet on a bartop or restaurant table, don’t leave your smartphone there, either.
  2. Lock your phone.
    A lost or stolen smartphone without a screen lock is pretty much an open book. Set up your phone so that the screen locks after a certain period of inactivity, and require a password/passcode to get back in.
  3. Update, update, update!
    Vulnerabilities in operating systems are being exposed and repaired with regularity. If you receive a notice that your phone’s OS has an update, install the update. Failure to do so will leave your phone susceptible to hacks.
  4. Enable location software on your phone.
    There are any number of apps out there that allow you to locate your phone if it’s lost or stolen, and some of these apps take it a step further by allowing you to wipe the information from your phone in the event that it’s really and truly gone. The GPS technology already resides in your phone’s OS, so make it work for you.
  5. Browse carefully.
    Your smartphone web browser is just as susceptible to malicious code as your laptop’s web browser. Just as you would on your laptop, avoid questionable websites when using your phone’s browser. Anti-malware protection apps are available for smartphone browsers, as well.
  6. Download wisely.
    Part of the fun and convenience of a smartphone is in the third party apps available. Be aware, however, that downloading apps can also introduce viruses, malware, and Trojans into your operating system. Only download from trusted app sources, read the reviews and take note of the number of stars given by others to rank each app. If you download an app, carefully examine the permissions it asks you to grant. And don’t allow automatic updating.
  7. Protect your email and messaging.
    Ensure your phone’s email account uses a SSL or HTTPS connection, which encrypts data as its transmitted. And just as you would on your laptop, don’t open suspicious emails or text messages from unknown sources.
  8. Avoid free Wi-Fi.
    Open Wi-Fi connections at airports and coffee shops are prime hunting grounds for hackers. Improve your smartphone’s security by not using these services to access information on your phone, particularly to do your banking or to shop.
  9. Use Bluetooth only when it’s needed.
    Bluetooth technology is handy when you’re using a headset or your car’s hands-free communications system. Set up your phone to pair to your device and it will search for it automatically; if you don’t use Bluetooth, turn the setting to “off.” Leaving your Bluetooth open without pairing will cause it to look for other Bluetooth phones to connect to, which can result in malware being loaded onto your phone. (Bonus tip: turning off your Bluetooth helps to extend your battery life.)
  10. Un-pin your PIN.
    Just as you wouldn’t write down your PIN codes or passwords and tack them up on the wall, you shouldn’t store this type of information on your phone. Anyone who gains access to your phone can search through your contacts or notes to find such information. Likewise, enable a PIN to access your voicemail, changing it from your carrier’s default PIN.

For most people, their smartphone is a lifeline that enables them to keep in touch with home, work, and friends, access their email, do their banking, and any number of other applications. A smartphone that’s lost or stolen can be a serious issue, as an unprotected phone is a treasure trove of information for the unscrupulous. When you begin to see your smartphone for what it is – a pocket-sized computer – it makes sense to establish the same types of security measures that you take for your laptop.

How do you protect your smartphone?