So your holiday wish came true…you got that cool new smartphone, tablet or other device. As much fun as it is to start doing all the things with it, it’s really important that you also think about how to secure your new device and the personal data that lives on it. Here are some tips for what to do to protect your information.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Securing Your New Device
Securing your device means doing more than just keeping it in a safe place (though that is also important).
Given the amount of personal information that is accessible via our modern devices, it also means strong password-protection, data backups, choosing appropriate privacy and security controls, awareness about the networks you connect to, keeping your device up-to-date and more.
Here are tips for what to do and not do to secure your new device:
- Lock all of your devices…either with a passcode that isn’t your birthdate or address, or with your fingerprint or facial recognition. Take advantage of the 6-digit PIN offered by iPhone, or the 16 digit option on Android.
- If it's not already the default on your smartphone, consider encrypting your data. On most modern iPhones, setting the passcode enables encryption. For more info on encrypting an Android device, click here.
- Set up remote wipe so that if the device is lost or stolen, you can still erase it. For iPhone users, you can easily erase a device by first setting up Find my iPhone on iCloud.com. Similarly, on Android devices, you can enable "Find My Device" and from there, you can Erase it if necessary.
- Only buy applications from a trusted app store rather than from 3rd party sources (Apple Store or Google Play are known trusted sources).
- Read carefully and understand what data you are giving apps access to – many of them request access to things they don’t need.
- Change the password from the factory default to something custom and unique to that device - this applies to wireless routers, home automation devices and smart speakers. Now that our homes have become networks of their own, all access points must be secured.
- Set your device to erase your data automatically after a set number of failed password attempts.
- Keep your device up-to-date – this includes updating the device’s operating system as well as all of your apps.
- Install anti-virus software - this will protect it from malware that can come from a downloaded app.
- Never “jailbreak” or “root” your device. Manipulating the devices factory-installed OS opens the door to various malware strains.
- Beware of public wi-fi – stay safe by only doing banking or shopping at home over a secure connection.
- Set unique passwords for each of your apps
- Change those passwords on a regular basis
- Limit your connections to the unknown -- this includes disabling automatic connections to open WiFi and only connecting to trusted networks.
- Choose your messaging service carefully - go with trusted apps that offer end-to-end encryption. Check out Buisness News Daily's review of the 3 best free secure messaging apps for business. Or there is TechWorld's picks for best secure mobile messaging apps.
- Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network), which allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. It's a good option for accessing a business network while traveling.
- Properly (and regularly) back up your device - by configuring the settings in Adroid and iPhone devices, you can enable automatic cloud backups.
- Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections when you aren’t using them
- Be wary of phishing scams – know that they can be sent by text message or email or even through social media sites
- If you no longer use an app, delete it.
- Turn on Limit Ad Tracking (iOS, Android and Windows)…this will anonymize you to the vast majority of app and mobile web ads, vastly increasing your digital privacy on mobile
- Set a short time window on your device before it locks - the shorter the better if you're traveling
- Don’t use auto-login settings
- Lock individual apps, such as your bank login
Wipe Your Old Device Before you Donate/Sell/Recycle It
Finally, if you’re donating, selling or recycling your old smartphone or tablet, make sure to wipe it so that your personal information is completely removed.
For Apple products, you want to be sure to sign out of iCloud and other applications, so that you're only deleting the data from that specific device. Also, remember to sign in to your iTunes account and remove that device.
Make sure to backup all of your personal data first, including your contacts!
Don’t Forget to Secure Your Smart Speakers and Other Home Automation Devices
This advice doesn’t just apply to the phone in your purse or pocket either.
Google Home and Amazon Echo were wildly popular gifts this year, and they need to be secured as well. You can check out this blog article from earlier this year on securing your Amazon Echo, or here for an article from Gizmodo on how to lock down both Amazon Echo and Google Home.
The more familiar you are with the full functionality of your device, the better your experience will be with it. Just be sure to include securing your new device as one of the items on your to do list. With mobile malware on the rise, and more and more sensitive data being stored and transmitted on these devices, it's critical that all smartphone users begin to understand the importance of better device security.
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