Is Your Smartphone Data At Risk?

Your smartphone is better than your best friend. It’s with you wherever you are and then entertains you when you’re bored. It can help you do your work and can even replace your secretary.

It knows everything about you, including where you have been and where you’re going to be at 5 p.m. You use it to store photos and sensitive information.

All that is good if your phone is right there with you. But can you imagine if your smartphone gets stolen?

Who cares about smartphone security?

You should!

The recent U.S. ban on Chinese phone manufacturer, Huawei, put a spotlight on smartphone security. Allegations were thrown at Huawei for spying on its users.

From intercepting messages and then helping African governments crack down on political opponents, to simply sending a photo of you without you knowing, all kinds of accusations have been leveled against Huawei.

Are they working for the Chinese government and spying on users? It would seem that it is all overblown. There is no hard proof that Huawei has been doing what they are being accused of.

Spying or not, one thing was certain: the phones they manufactured were more vulnerable to hacking attacks because of coding errors. For some governments, such as Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, Huawei was not to be trusted for their respective 5G rollouts.

How to be more secure with your smartphone

If there is anything that you should take away from the whole Huawei brouhaha, it’s that you need to secure your smartphone.

People mistakenly think that there is no need to secure their phones. They install antivirus software on their computers, update their operating system and other programs they use, and follow every security best practice, but they cannot even set up a screen lock for their phones.

As late as 2018, more than half of smartphone users do not use passwords to secure their devices. Moreover, only 22 percent use an anti-theft solution on their device.

This is true even when 35 percent of people use their smartphones for online banking, 57 percent access their emails on the device, and 55 percent update their social media on their phones.

It’s time for you to change that mindset and adopt a more aggressive stance to securing your phone. Here’s how.

1. Read permissions being asked by any mobile app you install.

When you install an app onto your phone, you are given a list of things that you should permit it to do. Most of us do not even read a single line and just allow the apps to do whatever they want.

But would you allow an app that reads all your text messages? Or perhaps do some microphone recording? How comfortable will you be with an app that can access all your photos and videos?

While that may ring some privacy bells, most of the time it’s okay to grant these permissions. But you really have to read them first.

These permissions will allow the apps to do things so that they can deliver on their promised features. For example, Facebook’s mobile app will ask to access your camera roll, so that you can share your latest selfie on your profile. Microphone recording is a necessary permission for apps that allow you to share videos.

However, if you don’t plan to use these features, then you might as well not grant them. Further, look out for weird permissions, such as a calculator app asking to access your photos.

2. Screen-lock your device.

You can easily lose a mobile phone or tablet. When you do and it is not locked, you are giving away private data to whoever picks it up.

It’s very simple to lock your phone. All you need to do is tinkerwith the setup menu. You can use patterns, pins, and even biometrics to do this.

On top of locking up your device, you should consider backing up everything on your smartphone. This includes sensitive data, photos, and other files that you want to access just in case you cannot get to your phone.

3. Secure your backups.

Speaking of backups, you will want to make sure that nobody can access your backups except yourself and the people you trust.

Check out what types of files you want to back up. Some people are okay with having their photos on the cloud, while others might not be comfortable with the idea of their personal photos floating out there somewhere in cyber space.

Consider turning off auto uploads to the cloud. Most devices these days send photos, files, and other media to the cloud by default. You should always have control over what your smartphone sends out onto the cloud storage service you choose.

4. Install security apps on your phone.

In July 2019, Check Point reports that a new malware called Agent Smith could have easily infected 25 million smartphones.

If you think viruses and malware only affect desktop and laptop computers, think again.

The good news is that there are numerous excellent security apps you can install. You have antivirus apps such as AVG, Avast Mobile Security, or Bitdefender Antivirus Free.

5. Remote location and data wiping.

A smartphone is designed to be portable. Indeed, most of these devices can fit into the palm of your hand – but that also makes them easy to lose. You can accidentally misplace it, leave it on a restaurant table, or even drop it inside a cab.

Smartphones can easily be stolen, as well. According to the FCC, 1 in every 10 American smartphone owners gets their phones stolen. A good 68 percent of them never recover the device.

This is the worst-case scenario when it comes to mobile phone security – having an unauthorized person having physical access to your smartphone.

When this happens, the best course of action is to remotely delete everything on the device. But this can only be done only after you’ve successfully tracked it. Apple has the “Find My iPhone” feature that you can enable in the settings. Meanwhile, Android Device Manager allows you to track your Android device with ease.

Several apps also allow you to delete everything remotely. This action can help ensure that the thief will not be able to see sensitive information on your smartphone.

6. Security for those times you use your phone in public.

If you shop online while in public places, use caution. People can just easily look over your shoulder and steal credit card details & other information.

More than that, you should also be wary of using public Wi-Fi networks. Free and open Wi-Fi networks can be used by hackers to steal sensitive information.

To be safe, limit the use of your smartphone for online banking and other similar activities when you’re at home. You certainly don’t want to have hackers on the same public Wi-Fi network effortlessly intercepting (and stealing) your data.

You can also use encryption services to scramble data before sending it. VPNs are a good way to thwart hackers lurking on public Wi-Fi.

7. Protect the card as well.

So, your smartphone is screen-locked and everything, but what about your removable microSD card? It’s easier for a thief to just take out the SD card and then get data from there.

For this reason, you should encrypt the internal storage in your device as well. You can use free software to secure the SD card. Check out software like AutoKrypt.

8. Invest in a proximity alarm sensors.

An ounce of prevention, they say, is worth a pound of cure. If you have tons of sensitive data on your phone, then take steps to avoid losing it in the first place.

A wireless proximity alarm system allows you to keep tabs on your phone. They’re easy to use: Set it up and download the companion app. Once it’s set up, the proximity alarm will let you know if your smartphone gets beyond a pre-configured distance.

For example, say somebody swipes your smartphone and tries to run away with it. Your proximity alarm will chirp telling you that your phone is no longer near you.Depending on the alarm you buy, you can either locate the phone via GPS or remotely lock it.

These devices are usually small, and most of the time, they are also used as a key fob.

Smartphone security is easy

Keeping your private information secure on your smartphone doesn’t take much. You have all the tools and software available to you. All you need to do is change your mindset.

Your smartphone holds tons of personal data about you, and it’s not just the photos you take or the documents you wrote on it while you were stuck in traffic. It also has sensors that can record your location, activities, and even how many steps you have taken for the entire day.

Knowing all that, we hope that you are compelled to protect your smartphone. When you follow the security steps outlined above, you’re far less likely to fall victim to hacking. And, with the variety of tools available to help you secure your smartphone, you can even protect your devices for free.

Author: Robin Gupta