Cell Phone Security Tips

BY Beth Williams

It just makes sense to take your smartphone with you when you travel, whether it’s domestic or international. It can make your travels more convenient, but you also have to be much more vigilant, as for most of us our phone is increasingly our link to everything which is important to us. With so much personal information such as phone numbers, reminders, credit card information and saved passwords on it you’ll want to take some extra precautions so it (and all your information) don’t end up in the wrong hands.

The risk for identity theft from a phone  can be much higher than from a computer. Phones, go with us everywhere we go and their small size makes them more likely to be left behind or easily stolen than a laptop computer. Combine the higher loss factor with the fact that data on smartphones is less secure than the data on a laptop and it’s a perfect recipe for identity theft.

To protect yourself you must protect your phone via two approaches.  One is physically and the other is using security features to guard and lock your personal information found on your phone.

Watch these short videos and read on……


Smartphone Password are Mandatory!

It’s so easy to misplace or forget your phone while traveling, people tend to lose their phones in airports, cabs, and other public places because they’re distracted. Setting a password is the simplest way to keep your data safe if your phone goes AWOL during the hustle and bustle of  travel. Make sure that your password is strong enough so that a thief can’t easily guess it. One of the most basic cell phone security tips is the easy step of setting up a password. If your phone has this capability, take advantage of it. Most phones have password settings you can customize.

Choose a difficult number, not 1234 or your birthday. Android uses an unlock pattern in which the owner has to run his finger over the screen in a certain manner. Make your unlock pattern complex by using more dots to connect your pattern. Set your phone up to go into password protect mode after as little time as possible, having not been touched. Many phones have this capability. On an iPhone you can go to “settings,” then “general,” then “password lock.” On a BlackBerry, go into “security options,” “general settings” and then “security timeout.” This way, if your phone is physically stolen or lost, and if someone gets a hold of it, they will not be able to get into the phone without the password. A lot of damage can be done in five minutes.

For ultimate security, set your phone so it goes into password protect mode immediately. Unfortunately, in some cases, having a passcode-controlled lock on your phone’s software isn’t enough to protect your information. The user-set passcodes, which act like personal identification numbers to access phones, can be unlocked, allowing the person who holds your phone to reuse it.

While a passcode can provide an extra layer of security because it makes it more difficult to access the phone’s information; a number of YouTube videos show how to unlock passcodes on phones. In many cities, storefront cell phone repair shops can wipe the phone clean of information and data even if there’s a passcode on it for as little as $20. Once wiped, a new user can personalize your phone and sync it up to his or her computer.

Ensure that your device locks itself automatically

If you set up password-protection on your phone but then leave it unlocked on your desk for 15 minutes, you won’t have achieved very much. Most smartphones allow you to set them up to automatically lock themselves after a period of inactivity. Make sure you choose the shortest timeout you are comfortable with. Two to five minutes is better than ten to thirty, even if it does feel slightly inconvenient.

Install a anti-theft smartphone app

It might be a good idea to look into some of the anti-theft apps available out there. Numerous are available, just make sure you do the proper research before you buy. Install security software Your phone is a computing device and should be protected accordingly with security software just like your home computer. Numerous are available, and some are even free.  Contact you cell phone provider.  Look for an apps that includes malware prevention, remote data wipe, privacy review of apps and an automatic security advisor to alert you to potential risks when you change a device setting.

Smartphone anti-theft case

Smartphone anti-theft case

Be wary of your physical surroundings

Simply by being aware of your surroundings while using a your phone in public can significantly lessen your chances of becoming a victim of theft. For instance, while your smartphone is on a table, desk, or counter, it is always a target for thieves. A quick turn of your head for even a moment is enough for your phone to be stolen. When not using it, put it in a pocket or bag or on your lap. Pickpockets practice stealing smartphones from the outer pocket of women’s purse. Your cell phone can be easily lifted from an exterior pocket while you’re intentionally bumped or distracted in a public setting by a thief or team of thieves working together, it happens all the time. Place your phone inside your purse,

Consider using anaAnti-theft phone security pouch or security case
With the rise of smartphone thefts, some companies have made cell phone security cases and security pouches.  While the cases may look ordinary, they have anti-theft features built in to prevent your phone from being stolen.  The following are just a few of the features you can find on these anti-theft smartphone cases which can be found here.

  • eXomesh® Slashguard in front panel – Prevents the smartphone pouch from being slashed and the phone removed
  • Slashproof adjustable neck / shoulder strap – Prevents a smartphone thief from cutting the rear strap of the smartphone anti-theft pouch and running away with it
  • Tamperproof concealed safety hook to secure purse and mobile phone pocket – Prevents smartphone thieves from removing your smartphone from the security pouch without your knowledge

Always keep an eye on your phone while traveling.

As you’re going through airport security, watch your phone as it enters the x-ray machine and retrieve it immediately when it comes out—thieves will often steal phones during the few seconds where people don’t pay attention as they go through the metal detector. If you set your phone down on a counter or table, don’t let it out of your sight.

Don’t click on links in text messages from people you don’t trust.

As they do with email, spammers use text messages to install spyware and steal or “phish” your information. Make sure that whenever you click on a link in a text message, you trust the person who sent it. Even if you’ve been doing some recent holiday shopping, online stores, your bank, or your carrier won’t ask to “verify” your account information. Be especially careful if you are traveling to Europe or Asia, where we have seen a much higher rate of text message spam.

Turn off automatic Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections when you aren’t using them.

Turn off Wifi when not in use

Turn off Wifi when not in use

One of the great things about modern mobile phones is their ability to connect to the internet in many ways, but continually probing for wireless networks gives away information about your identity and location, and blindly connecting to unencrypted access points can let your phone leak all sorts of useful things for malicious actors to intercept and act upon. Airports, coffee shops, and hotels are especially attractive targets for hackers around the holidays, as they can use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to attack phones and steal information.

The easiest way to stay safe (and conserve battery) is to turn Wi-Fi and Bluetooth off when you aren’t using them. When you use Bluetooth, make sure it is in non-discoverable mode. When you use Wi-Fi, always try to use an encrypted network or use a VPN if your work has one, otherwise, hackers can easily “sniff” your data out of the air. So tell your phone to forget networks you no longer use, and configure your phone to automatically turn on/off wireless in certain places using a location-aware smartphone app.

Back up your data.

Before leaving on a trip, be sure to back up your data—it only takes a few minutes. If you happen to lose your phone (or accidentally drop it in the punch bowl), you’ll be up and running in no time.

Apply software/firmware updates from your carrier or phone vendor.

Carriers and phone manufacturers routinely provide software or firmware updates to fix security vulnerabilities that hackers can use to attack your phone. Even if you get a brand new phone, it may be out of date. Check on the carrier or phone manufacturer’s website for any available updates and be sure to apply updates as soon as they are available in the future. Just like a desktop or laptop computer, staying up to date is your first line of defense from hackers and viruses.

Only download applications from reputable sources.

Getting a new phone? The first thing you will likely do is download apps—lots of them. You will probably download more apps on your phone than you have on your computer. Make sure to download responsibly: it is safer to use application marketplaces provided by your carrier or phone vendor than to download directly from the web. Some sites have hosted repackaged versions of popular mobile apps—such as Google Maps—that include spyware. Malware and spyware can still sneak in to marketplaces however, so be careful, especially with applications from unknown developers that have poor ratings or low download numbers.

Have a plan in case it gets stolen.

Many mobile security experts say it’s not just a matter of “if” your smart phone is lost or stolen but “when.”  You should have a plan in place in case you lose your phone or it’s stolen.  There’s software to remotely lock your smart phone or wipe it clean of all your information.

Pay attention to the private data accessed by apps.

Applications have the capability to access a lot of information about you. When you install an app, take the time to read the data and personal information that it needs to access. Whether it is access to your location, your personal information or text messages, it should make sense that the application needs access to those capabilities.

Download a “find your phone” app.

No matter how diligent you are about keeping your phone on you at all times, you’re bound to lose it once, or it may even get stolen at some point. Download an app that helps you find your phone in case it is lost or stolen. Make sure you can remotely lock your phone if it is lost or stolen.

Exercise caution with links in SMS messages.

Smishing, or a combination of SMS texting and phishing, is when scammers send you a text to a malicious website or ask you to enter sensitive information. Don’t click on links in text messages or emails if you don’t know the sender or they look suspicious. Trust your instincts.

On Public Wi-Fi, limit email, social networking and only window shop.

Public Wi-Fi networks have become ubiquitous, but unfortunately securing the websites you may access haven’t. Many websites, email programs, instant messaging programs and social networking sites are not entirely safe to browse or access from a public Wi-Fi network. Also, trying to limit your online shopping to “window shopping” on a public network.

Never enter your credit card information on a site that begins with only “http://”.

If a website ever asks you to enter your credit card information, you should automatically look to see if the web address begins with “https”. On unsecured networks, (those that have only have http://), mean a hacker could easily steal information like usernames, passwords and credit card numbers, which could lead to identity theft.

Enable a Wipe feature on your phone.

If you find yourself (or your phone) in a difficult situation, and you won’t be able to get your phone back, a Wipe application will clear all the data so your private information won’t fall into the wrong hands. If you can, try to download an app where you can wipe your SD card too.

Smartphone security tips video: