The data stored in your smartphone is probably more valuable than the device itself – but very few of us take basic steps to keep it safe from hackers and thieves.
Smartphones often contain your personal details (address, phone number, etc), passwords for everything from app stores to social network sites and banks – along with personal photos and the contact details of everyone in your address book.
Leaving apps open can put this data in the hands of thieves or hackers – as can failure to observe simple security precautions.
It’s not just thieves who want it; either – viruses and other unscrupulous apps have begun to target smartphones, usually with the goal of serving adverts direct to people’s phones.
Thankfully, a few basic security steps can help to keep your phone safe.
General security tips
There are some simple steps you can take to beef up your security considerably.
Make sure you have your password lock enabled, and more importantly that it’s set to engage soon after any period of inactivity. Set a pin code too on your voicemail so only you can access your messages.
Set up a tracker app like Find my iPhone or LocateMyDroid so that if your phone is lost or stolen you can track, remote lock and if necessary remote wipe it. And if any of your apps or security settings is hacked or breached, remember to change your passwords straight away.
Your security may still be at risk after you’ve sold on your smartphone. Before you sell, back up all your data and then do a full phone factory reset. How to do this differs for each phone so check online for your model.
Make sure too that when you finish using an app – especially those containing sensitive information like banking apps – you close it completely rather than just exiting it. If it’s open, and your phone is stolen, it can mean thieves have access to sensitive information.
In iOS this is a simple case of exiting the app, double pressing the home button and doing a long press on the icon in the apps that show in the bottom menu until the ‘close’ x appears before tapping on it.
Android is a little trickier, as you have to navigate the Applications tab, then settings and applications menus and then tap Manage applications. Here you can select an app and tap ‘Force stop.’
Apps represent the biggest vulnerability to your security on your phone. Free apps in particular often share your data with advertising firms – meaning unwanted ‘targeted’ adverts that pop up on your phone.
Recent study by Appthority shows that free apps for iPhone pose a greater privacy risk than free apps from Google Play, with 60% of the former and 50% of the latter’s top-10 selling apps sharing data with advertising networks.
Staying safe from ‘fake apps
Fake apps are also rife on marketplaces such as Google’s Play Store.
‘Clones’ of popular apps such as Angry Birds instead infect your phone with malicious software.
The only defense is to be wary about downloading apps – particularly free ones – from the store.
Some simply serve you annoying adverts. Others though are far more sinister – adding huge amounts to your bill by dialing foreign numbers or using premium SMS services.