Your smartphone is your constant companion, allowing you to conveniently keep in touch with family and friends, shop, bank, order takeout, and listen to your favorite music. The last thing you want is to lose the information you have stored on your smartphone — or worse, get hacked. Follow these six tips to keep your mobile phone secure.
1. Use a strong password, Touch ID, or Face ID
Controlling access to your smartphone is an essential part of protecting data. Make it harder for cyberthieves to open your phone by setting up a long, complex password — or by using a fingerprint or facial recognition system — for unlocking your phone.
For a secure mobile phone, your passcode should be at least six digits (preferably 12). A unique combination of letters, numbers, and symbols is ideal. If you have an iPhone, be sure to enable its data protection feature, which wipes all of your phone's data after 10 consecutive wrong attempts to enter the password.1 There are built-in delays until you can retry, starting with one minute after the fifth attempt and increasing to a full hour after the ninth attempt, giving you extra time to recall or retrieve the code if you've forgotten it.
2. Keep your operating system updated
Periodically your mobile phone company will create updates to its operating system (OS) to improve performance and fix any new security issues. If you want a secure smartphone, pay attention to these notification updates. The Federal Communications Commissionoffers severaluseful guidelines for installing OS updates and making sure your settings run properly after you do so.2
For instance, you should check that your phone is compatible with the upgrades, especially if you have an older model. After the installation, check your WiFi, privacy, and other settings to ensure your preferences haven't changed.
3. Back up your data regularly
Thieves and hackers aren't the only threat to your mobile phone's security. You also risk losing data if you don't have a backup system in place.
Apple provides five gigabytes of free iCloud storage space for each of its devices, and you can purchase additional space if needed. If you have a huge amount of data — lots of images, music, apps, and the like — the iTunes computer backup route is probably your most affordable option.4
If you have an Android phone and signed up with your Google account when you first powered up, your device is equipped with Google's automatic backup system.5 Check the “backup & reset" section of your system settings to make sure the system is running and backing up data to your Google account.
Did you know? Keeping your phone's operating system updated helps protect you from the latest security threats.
4. Download trustworthy apps only
A malicious app can put your mobile phone at risk, so make sure any app you download comes from a reliable source. Limit your app selections to highly rated, well-known developers.
If you have an Android device, the best practice is to download apps only from the Google Play Store. An iPhone's settings won't allow you to download apps from anywhere except Apple's App Store.
5. Beware of "smishing"
Smishing is a type of scam using text messages. With smishing, fraudsters send text messages to your phone that look like they're coming from a credible source. In these text messages, fraudsters try to trick you into sharing personal financial information like your password, bank account, or credit card number. Get more information here about how to identify and avoid smishing attempts.
6. Stay off open WiFi networks
Connecting your phone to the Internet via public WiFi is a risky move, especially for mobile banking or any other use that involves sensitive personal or financial information. Even if the open WiFi network requires a password for access, the connection is still not secure. Your best bet is to stick with the connection you get through your mobile provider's data plan for these kinds of transactions.
You can add more protection by installing an app to set up a virtual private network,6 which will encrypt and remove the personal identifiers of the data you transfer.
Your smartphone is a handy and valuable tool. Make sure you keep the treasure trove of data you store on it secure.
Important Disclosure Information
This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.
Diversification is no guarantee against market loss.
CNET, “6 ways to make your iPhone more secure," Matt Elliot, June 8, 2018, accessed October 12, 2018.
Federal Communications Commission, “Updating Your Smartphone Operating System," September 8, 2017, accessed October 12, 2018.
PC Magazine, “How to Back Up and Restore Your iPhone," Lance Whitney, July 20. 2018, accessed October 12, 2018.
Wired, “How to Back Up Your iPhone," September 26, 2017, accessed October 12, 2018.
ComputerWorld, “How to back up Android devices: The complete guide," J.R. Raphael, August 20, 2018, accessed October 12, 2018.
CNBC, “Most people unaware of the risks of using public WiFi," Jennifer Schlesinger, June 28, 2016, accessed October 12, 2018.
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