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Smartphone Security Tips

Helpful tips to keep your mobile phone safe

Always secure your smartphone with a password or PIN

This is one of the most basic security tips, but often overlooked! Check your phone’s security options in Settings to set a four-digit PIN or a longer password.

Ensure that your device locks itself automatically

Most smartphones allow you to set up a time limit to automatically lock themselves after a period of inactivity. Select the timeout you are comfortable with, and remember that a longer time may be more convenient but may also be riskier.

Install security software

Your smartphone is a computing device and should be protected accordingly. Here are places you can look for Anti-Virus security software. Some are free, and some may cost you, so choose the one that is best. First, check your phone carrier. For example, Verizon makes available a McAfee tool that they call Verizon Support and Protect. It is available for both Android and iOS, free of charge.

Here is information on the “best” paid mobile Anti-Virus products. Most of these also offer a free version.

This article rates free Android Anti-Virus products.

Look for an app that offers the features you may want: 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.

Only download apps from approved sources

The Google Play Store and Apple's App Store take security pretty seriously. They are very careful about what apps they make available and will withdraw apps that raise concerns after release. Read user reviews of apps before installing them - if there are any security concerns then someone else may well have mentioned them.

Check your apps' permissions

Many apps require more than the basic default permissions. For instance, you can reasonably expect an SMS app to send and receive text messages just as a mapping app will request your GPS location. But something like an alarm clock that wants access to your contact database should be treated with caution!

Don't miss operating system updates

Operating system updates often include system vulnerability patches, so it's important to install them. You can choose to be advised of updates rather than having them automatically installed, depending on how often you check your device.

Be wary of any links you receive via email or text message

Exercise extreme caution when clicking on links in email and text messages. If you don’t know the sender, DELETE. If you do know the sender but the message seems fishy (“Look what Facebook is saying about you!”), contact the sender first to confirm that they are the actual sender.

Encrypt your smartphone

This alternative is available for Android devices. Apple devices have encryption built in. Even if you've secured your smartphone with a password, a thief could still plug your device into a computer and gain access to all of your personal information. For an extra layer of security you may want to use encryption on your smartphone to help prevent such data theft. You can find the encryption option in security settings.

Use caution with this option. Once you encrypt your phone, you will need to enter a PIN or password each time you power on- and if you want to decrypt, you will have to perform a factory data reset, which will erase all your data.

Turn off automatic Wi-Fi connection

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 leak information and data. Tell your phone to forget networks you no longer use- this will minimize any data leakage.

Turn off Bluetooth and NFC when not in use

Bluetooth and NFC (near field communication) are great in terms of connectivity, allowing you to use accessories such as wireless keyboards and headsets or make payments with a wave of your smartphone. The problem is that it does open a door for the bad guys to potentially gain access to your device and your data, so you should either switch these features off or put your device into "not discoverable" mode whenever possible. Also, be careful when pairing devices – never accept requests from unknown devices.