Smartphones are ever-evolving – they’re no longer just for calls, texts and Googling the odd thing. Nowadays, smartphones are pocket-sized computers that allow us to online bank, store credit cards in a digital wallet, store data, play games and so much more. This makes your smartphone a treasure trove of personal information and files that hackers will just love.
We’ve put together this guide of 5 simple steps that will help you to keep your smartphone safe:
Step 1 – Set up your lock screen
If you haven’t already set a screen-lock passcode, you need to get your phone out straight away and set one – this is the first thing and first level of security that anyone sees when they open a phone. Smartphones have a standard basic 4-digit PIN you can set, which is certainly better than nothing, but if you can, setting an 8-character alphanumeric password or facial or fingerprint recognition is much more secure.
Whilst it is more frustrating to fill in a longer passcode every time you want to enter your phone, you can extend the auto-lock period so you can delay the screen locking if you are using your phone.
Whilst a 4-digit PIN will prevent anyone from picking up your phone and quickly swiping information, it is worth knowing that these PINs can be cracked using advanced software that the police use, which unfortunately means that criminals are likely to have this too, so if your phone is lost or stolen, a 4-digit PIN is unlikely to protect you.
There are other key measures of protection you can take for your lock screen too, an important one being the disabling of message previews and notifications. If a new message pops up on your lock screen – anyone can see this information, and it may just be that bank verification code you requested. It’s important to disable personal voice assistants like Siri or Cortana from being accessed on your lock screen too, as you never know the kind of tasks or information that thieves can chat to your phone about.
If you want to ensure even greater security, there are ‘self-destruct’ security measures that you can take – a feature that most smartphones support. This basically means that your phone will automatically erase all of its data after a preset number of failed attempts.
Step 2 – Turn off settings when you’re not using them
You’d be awfully surprised at what smart hackers can do with any sort of access to your phone – from bluetooth to WiFi to GPS.
You should always turn off these settings when you’re not using them as it prevents anyone from gaining remote access to your phone. Aside from the security reasons, turning off these settings will also help you to conserve your battery for longer too.
Step 3 – Take care of the Apps your downloading
Apps are the easiest way that hackers can gain access to the personal details within your phone. It’s important to remember to only download Apps from the official stores, such as Apple’s App Store, Microsoft Store, Google Play Store etc. as these provide a safe platform in which to access quality apps, rather than from ‘ordinary’ websites that can’t prevent the app creators from building in malicious software.
There are a couple of further simple precautions you can take too before downloading apps, such as always checking the seller or developer name, for example, if you are downloading the Lloyds banking app, then the creator or seller should be called Lloyds Banking Group.
It’s also worth looking at the reviews and comments before downloading too, as people will have generally wrote about any problems or anomalies they have come across after the downloading the app.
You should also take care of the permissions and access requests an app is asking when loading. For example, if a simple game is asking you for access to your contacts or messages, then it may be cause for concern.
Step 4 – Don’t break the security in your own phone
Commonly known as ‘Jailbreaking’ or ‘Rooting’, this is the process of removing software restrictions from your phone’s operating system in order to install virtually anything onto your phone such as unofficial hacks or interface modifications.
Whilst it may allow for extra features, the software restrictions are generally in place for security reasons too – once jailbroken, your phone is much more open to malicious attacks. Unauthorised apps and downloads are also not regulated or monitored, so you could find they cause increased data usage, decreased battery life and general stability problems.
Step 5 – Keep your phone updated
Aside from the functionality benefits associated with updating your phone software, such as better speed or features, and fixing bugs that may cause freezing or crashing, software updates fundamentality protect you against known security issues.
When a new release for software updates is made available, they generally provide notes and a list of the items they have fixed – including the details of security exploits that have been sorted, meaning that these previous security problems are made public knowledge, so, if you haven’t updated your software you compromise your security, as hackers know of all the ways they can get into your phone and personal details.