This article features 7 simple smart phone security tips that can easily be implemented by you, your co-workers, friends and family. It will help them to use their smart phones more safely and make them a harder target for attackers and thieves.
1. Use a Long PIN
Firstly, make sure you use actually use a PIN. If you don’t, you are ‘leaving the door open’. If your phone is lost or stolen it is relatively trivial to steal all your email, social media and app passwords if you don’t have a PIN in place. This could give easy access to your personal information, photos and data backups and you may never see them again. You could also end up huge international phone and data bills and could even result in fraud being committed in your name.
Let’s assume you are reasonably savvy and you do have a PIN set. The PIN is often a part of the encryption key that is used to secure all of the passwords that are stored on the phone. If you only have a 4-digit PIN set, it fails to maximise the strength every password that is stored. Relatively inexpensive cracking software can crack 4-digit iPhone PINs on all but the latest iOS versions in less than a day.
The answer? Set at least a 6-digit pin or 8 digits is even better. A 4-digit PIN means that there are 10,000 combinations of a password stored using that key. 6 digits would be 1,000,000 combinations and 8 digits would be 100,000,000 combinations and could take 10,000 time longer to crack. So that would be 10,000 days versus 1 day. You get the picture.
2. Turn Wi-Fi Off If You Are Not Using It
Broadly speaking 3G and 4G are much more secure than Wi-Fi. Intercepting data over Wi-Fi is pretty straightforward, especially at public hotspots. From the data your phone sends out over Wi-Fi, a hacker can work out a lot about you and potentially steal your passwords. And, it isn’t just hackers that want your data. Companies use Wi-Fi to locate you and track your movements and this profile can be sold to retailers without your permission. So, if you would prefer this didn’t happen, then turn your phone’s Wi-Fi off when you’re not specifically using it.
3. Update Your Phone’s OS and Apps Promptly
There seems to be new phone OS and app update available pretty much every day. Some of this is to provide new features but the majority of updates are there to fix security issues. If you don’t make the time to update to the latest version of Android or iOS straight away, you leave yourself exposed to all the security flaws that hackers have found in the old version. Install updates as soon as they are available.
4. Consider Disabling Voice Control
Most people ‘play’ with voice control (Siri, Cortana, Google Now) when they first get a new pone but soon get bored as it’s often quicker to type and less embarrassing too. Most people then forget to turn voice control off or don’t realise you can. A thief with a stolen handset can bypass the PIN locks by speaking to the phone. By default, Siri offers quite a lot of functionality even when a phone is locked, such as sending messages and updating social media. Could be very embarrassing.
You can disable Siri, Google Now and Cortana by changing the phone’s settings or if you do still like to use it, just make sure you change the settings so that you can only use them after a PIN has been entered.
5. Disposing of Old Phones
Quite often people give their old phones and tablets to family members to use. The problem with older devices, though, is that they typically have more security issues. Would you be happy with your child using an old iPhone of which the 4-digit PIN could be cracked in less than 20 seconds? Kids use a lot of apps so can be entering a lot of information into their devices.
6. Jailbreaking and Rooting
Don’t be tempted to jailbreak or root your phone unless you fully understand the technical risks and how to manage them. If you want the latest apps, but don’t want to pay, there’s a temptation to jailbreak your phone in order to get access to cracked, free apps via unofficial app stores. Those ‘free’ apps can often contain malware, which once activated, will steal your personal data.
7. Spread the Word
Follow the advice detailed above to help keep your phone data safe but also make sure your colleagues, friends, family and especially kids, know about the points raised in this article.