How (and Why) to Secure Your Cell Phone
Let’s talk about mobile phones, AKA, the biggest security breach you carry in your pocket. Does that sound like an overstatement? If so, just think about it for a moment:
If you’re like most people, you have Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram on your phone. That has a network of people you’re connected to and a wealth of information about your interests on it.
You probably also have an email app on your phone.
You may even have work email access on your phone.
And that’s not even mentioning your banking apps, Amazon, Home Depot, or other shopping apps; pictures of yourself, your home, your pets, friends, and family; messaging services, and more!
But do you protect this information and treat your phone like your wallet, social security card, or the keys to your house? Or do you skip most security measures because you never really thought about how important they might be?
I’m here to do 2 things: 1. convince you that it IS incredibly important to protect all the personal information you keep on your phone, and 2. tell you about some easy ways to make your phone more secure. Hopefully I’ve already accomplished item one. So here’s the How To.
Improve Your Cell Phone Security
> Lock It Like Your Front Door
You should always have a password-protected lock screen. It could be a number code, a swipe pattern, a fingerprint, or even the face scan.
I personally prefer a numeric code or a swipe pattern. I have found that the finger scanner is not always reliable—it will not always pick up your full print. Plus there are ways to copy fingerprints, which means someone other than me could gain access. And certain tests with the face scanner have shown that it will open for members of your family or people who have similar facial features as you do, which can cause security issues.
But I won’t leave my phone unlocked. Whether by accident or malicious intent, too many bad things can happen that I don’t want to worry about.
> Careful When Connecting
Free Wi-Fi is great. It can also be a trap though. Be careful about how you connect.
Many businesses offer free Wi-Fi, and we have come to expect it. But there are a number of hackers that put up fake free Wi-Fi networks. These are an attempt to get you to connect and share your information over unsecure transmissions or by letting them connect to your device.
First, check that the Wi-Fi network you want to connect to is secure. It should have a padlock after its name. Second, there should be a splash page that you have to sign into before granting access. Examples of splash pages are what you see when logging into free airport or hotel Wi-Fi. Your code may be your room number, for example. It may take one extra step, but it means your Internet connection is not open to just anyone, and it gives you peace of mind that you are secure.
Most importantly, I recommend turning off the auto connection feature that is on most mobile devices. This is typically under Settings and then Wi-Fi or Networks. You will still be able to connect your device, but you will be able to choose which networks to use rather than any connections happening automatically.
> BYO Charging Cord
Another way to keep your phone secure is to avoid using public charging stations. Most charging cables have more than one use: they typically double as a data transfer cables, which means information can be moved from your phone to a computer or storage device.
So just as you shouldn’t plug an unknown USB drive into your computer, you shouldn’t connect an unknown phone cord to your cell phone. I understand the temptation: when you’re busy and on your phone a lot, your battery does get low at times. However, there are car chargers, portable power bars, and even solar powered chargers now as well.
Invest in a spare cord or power bank to take with you, and you can reduce this risk entirely.
> 3 Quick Tips
These tips are things you’ve probably heard before. Even as reminders, however, they are important to help keep your phone and information protected.
- Always keep your cell updated. Technology service providers find and fix bugs all the time. You can set your phone to automatically update so you will always be protected.
- Try not to click on links that you do not know. This goes hand-in-hand with not clicking on links on your computer that you do not know, but sometimes we forget our phones are basically handheld computers. They can, and are, being targeted by scammers.
- Consider using the auto log out feature on your apps. We use this on computers that we manage to keep them from being left up for anyone to access. I would suggest logging out of bank apps, social media apps, and any app that has personal information. You can also change the timing on the auto lock feature of the phone itself. This controls how long the phone stays unlocked when it is not in use, and you can find it under Settings in the Display section for iPhone or the Security and Screen Lock for Android.
> Make It MFA Official
One last feature that is beneficial for computers and phones is multi-factor authentication. This gives an extra level of security for your information. It requires a password, and also a pass code or authentication link, that certifies that you are who is trying to log into the phone, app, or computer.
It sounds like an extra step, and it is. But it takes no time at all to do, and it is worth it to help keep you, your friends, and even your company a little safer.
For more ways to improve your cybersecurity, click on the topic tag below and see related articles.