Five Great Smartphone Security Tips

March 25, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Do you ever give much thought to smartphone security? The smartphone is quickly eclipsing the PC for many common small business tasks that need to be accomplished on the road such as email, social networking, web browsing, and editing or creating documents.  However, the growing popularity of the smartphone also increases its vulnerability; not only because smartphones are small and easy to lose, but also because they present a big target for the same kinds of security threats that plague PCs, such as viruses and other malware.  Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep your smartphone data safe. Read on for five smart ways to improve your Android, BlackBerry, iPhone or Windows Phone 7 smartphone security.

1. Screen Lock Your Phone

If you leave your smartphone unattended for a while — or worse, if it’s lost or stolen– you don’t want to make it easy to rifle through its contents. Setting your smartphone to require a PIN code or password for access after an inactive period is a relatively easy way to thwart this kind of opportunistic unauthorized access.

2. Enable Remote Locate, Lock and Wipe

Can’t find your phone? You may have simply misplaced it somewhere around the office, or inadvertently left it at your last meeting. Then again, maybe someone stole it when you weren’t looking. In this situation, software — or a service — with the capability to remotely locate, lock, and wipe your phone might help you retrieve it. Barring that, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that even though someone’s got your phone, your data can still be protected.  Remote location will provide an approximate location that should be enough to let you determine whether or not the phone is somewhere you’ve recently been.  If you determine that your phone has been stolen, you’ll appreciate the capability to lock it with a PIN or password (even if you hadn’t previously enabled the aforementioned lock feature), and you’ll typically have the option to display a customized on-screen message (i.e. with return/reward info). If you determine that reuniting with your phone isn’t in the cards, you can wipe its data clean with a remote command.

3. Routinely Back Up or Synch Your Smartphone

Hopefullyyou never find yourself missing a smartphone or having to issue a remote data self-destruct, but if you do, you’ll want to be sure your phone’s data exists somewhere else. The same is true in the event your device becomes incapacitated due to physical damage or some other malfunction. Whatever the case, having a backup of your data is critical.  Depending on the smartphone, you may have the option to make a comprehensive backup of your device to a computer, or at least maintain a redundant copy of the most critical data and settings by syncing with online storage (a.k.a “the cloud) — either via a vendor-provided service or a third-party app. (You can’t generally backup the complete contents of your smartphone online due to bandwidth and storage limitations.)

4. Keep Your Phone ‘In Jail’

This one’s pretty simple. It’s tempting to “jailbreak” or “root” your smartphone to access hidden features and unofficial apps. But if you’re concerned about security, don’t do it. This can circumvent many of the safeguards built into the smartphone’s operating system, opening avenues of vulnerability that may not be readily apparent.

5. Mind Your Mobile Apps

With such a wide selection of smartphone apps available — most of them free or low-cost — it’s tempting to load up on anything and everything that catches your fancy. That’s not a good idea, because you can’t really be sure what an app is going to do once it’s on your phone.  For example, malware-laden apps were recently discovered (and removed) from the Android app marketplace, and federal prosecutors recently began investigating whether numerous app makers are, in violation of privacy laws, collecting and transmitting personal data (often to advertising networks) without users’ knowledge or content.  There’s not too much you can do to protect yourself from unseen app behavior, other than to keep the number of apps to a minimum, and if possible, use an anti-virus app.

These tips should help ease your mind about the security of your smartphone.  As technology advances, it is quickly becoming the most precious device we own, chock full of valuable personal data.  Please remember to protect yourself and your information.  Setting aside a few minutes to secure your phone can save you a giant headache in the future!