3 Easy ways to secure your smartphone

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Date:
02 February 2017

By Gail Mullard, Digital Marketing Associate

With Safer Internet Day being next Tuesday 7th February our thoughts turn to security, vulnerabilities in software and what we can all do to bolster security on our devices and in particular the smartphone; the computer that is always with you, always on and yet carries so much personal information.  

3 Easy ways to secure your smartphone

 

Surprisingly smartphones are low on the priority list for security, which is concerning for all, since smartphone-hacking is on the increase.  In this article we discuss 3 simple steps that everyone can easily implement to help defend against unwanted ‘sharing’ of personal information.

Lock your screen

Sounds an obvious suggestion,  but many people don’t lock their screen, they simply put the screen to sleep.  Most smartphones offer a choice of Swipe, Pattern, PIN and password.  The more advance offer fingerprint so there is bound to be an option that appeals.

Shockingly, the most popular password in 2016, making up nearly 17% of the 10 million passwords analysed by security company Keeper Security, was “123456.” You can read the others here.  Disappointingly, this list has not changed very much over the past 5 years.

So what should you do?  If you must use numbers, select 6 digit combinations over 4, but don’t use your birth date.  Alternatively, you can set your smartphone to “swipe” to lock and unlock your screen.  Again try to avoid obvious shapes. And if you do use a password, string together a couple of random words.

You should also consider a password manager.  These apps are digital vaults holding all your passwords and PINs so you need only remember one complex and unique password.   Easy-to-use choices on offer for Android users can be found here. For iPhone users, a few more useful additions can be found here.  

Encrypt your data

For some, this word might conjure up images of technical know-how and lengthy set up. Good news if you’re an iPhone user running iOS 8 or later, as you have full-disk encryption by default.  This means when your phone is locked, all the information on it is scrambled and unreadable so data cannot be extracted by a hacker, vital if you use banking apps and email on your smartphone.

For Android users, you need only go into Settings and choose the ‘Security’ button.  In here, under ‘Encryption’ choose to ‘Encrypt Device’ – you will be asked for a passcode of 6 digits ( remember our tips from earlier).  Be aware, your smartphone must be plugged in and charging to allow the encryption to start as it takes anything up to an hour to complete – during which time your phone is out of use.

Backup Your Data 

Sounds involved but this is another easy set-up on Android phones.  Go into your Settings menu again and choose the ‘Backup and reset’ button and ensure that the ‘Back up my data’ and ‘Automatic restore’ checkboxes are ticked.  This takes care of app data, chrome bookmarks, wi-fi passwords etc.  If you want to go one step further, go to the ‘Accounts’ button and click into Google.  Then check that all of your Google account services are being synced so that they are available on all devices when signed into your Google account.    While here, it’s as good idea to double-check your Account preferences to make sure they are all set up correctly, e.g., language is English UK and not English US.

IPhone users have 2 options; back-up to iCloud or iTunes.  It’s a personal preference – you could back up to both and then decide later which one is for you!  Make sure you are connected to wi-fi, go to Settings> tap iCloud and make sure the iCloud back-up is on / green.  Then press ‘back-up now’.  To check the back-up, tap Settings > iCloud > Storage > Manage Storage, then select your device. The backup should appear in the details with the time and backup size.

There are lots of other ways to ensure your smartphone data remains private, including setting up ‘Find my Phone’ gives you the ability to lock your phone remotely should the worst happen and your smartphone is stolen or lost.   

Finally, ensuring you have the latest version of software installed on your device may seems over-diligent, but will help protect your smartphone.  Having the latest software update provides peace of mind that your phone is protected from all known security vulnerabilities.