How to enjoy your smartphone while still protecting your privacy
1. Lock your device with a passcode
Without this first layer of security in effect, anyone who picks up your phone can access your apps and the data held within. Set a passcode that only you know, and simply tap it in before you use your phone. For those devices that allow it, you can also set a “touch ID” that opens the phone in response to your fingerprint or set a “face ID” that unlocks a phone when the front facing camera recognizes you.
2. Avoid suspicious links
Any link you receive in an email or text should be looked at with a suspicious eye. If you don’t know the sender, don’t even think about clicking on the link. If you do know the sender, make sure they did indeed send it before you click. False email, text, and message accounts pretending to be a person or entity you know is a common cybercriminal trick, and it’s known as phishing. Don’t take the bait.
3. Update your software immediately
Whenever an update is released for your device, download and install it right away. These updates often include security fixes, vulnerability patches, and other necessary maintenance.
4. Use unique passwords for EVERY account online
Avoid reusing any passwords. When cybercriminals get a user’s password in their grasp, they try that password for every one of the user’s accounts. Don’t give them that kind of skeleton key. Best practice is to use a password manager to create unique, hard-to-crack passwords. The advantage with a password manager is that it remembers all your passwords for you. Another option is to use memorable sentences or “pass phrases” that you can remember. If you need to write them down, do so, but store them away from your computer.
5. Use a VPN on open Wi-Fi networks
It’s hard to avoid using open Wi-Fi — you’re busy, you’re out and about, and you need to do some online transactions. Here’s a common scenario: you happen to be at a coffee shop and so you connect your phone to their unprotected Wi-Fi network and make your purchase or do a banking transaction on your mobile phone. We’ve all been there. So, if you must use open Wi-Fi in a situation like this, get a VPN app for your mobile device. It makes you anonymous online, so you can use open Wi-Fi safely hidden from the eyes of lurking cybercriminals.
6. Download apps from reputable app stores
Use only the official app stores — Apple App Store if you have an iPhone or iPad, and Google Play store if you have an Android device. It’s all too common for malware developers to create fake malicious apps and put them up on shady third-party sites, hoping someone will be naive enough to download them. Official app stores have a more stringent vetting process.
7. Backup your data to the cloud
You will save yourself a lot of headache if you keep an ongoing backup of your phone. That way, if it’s ever lost or stolen, you still have all the apps, data, and accounts up to date in your backup.
8. Enable remote wiping of your phone.
As an extension of the peace-of-mind from the last step, if your phone is lost or stolen, you can wipe out all your personal data from its memory remotely. (And you don’t have to worry about losing that data because you have your handy backup from Tip 7.) You can learn more about how to erase your iPhone remotely and erase your Android device remotely on their respective webpages.