As a result, should your smartphone fall into the wrong hands, it is a potential treasure trove of information and, therefore, a potential cyber security risk.
If you download a rogue app, click on a malicious link in an email or visit a dubious website, it’s even possible for hackers to hijack your phone without it leaving your side.
Here are 10 smartphone security tips to help keep you and your device safe and secure.
Treat your phone as carefully as you would your bank cards. Take care when using your phone in public, and don’t let it out of your possession. Thieves can quickly rack up huge bills on stolen phones, and you may be liable for all charges run up on your phone before you have reported it lost or stolen to your provider. To help prevent this happening, protect your phone against unauthorised use by setting up a PIN, password or biometrics-based security for your lock screen via your devices settings.
Make a record of your phone’s IMEI number, as well as the make and model number. The IMEI is a unique 15-digit serial number which you will need to give to your mobile operator to have your phone blocked. You can check your IMEI number by ‘dialling’ *#06# in your calls app (device information is displayed on-screen, rather than making an actual call). These details are also noted on a phone’s original packaging.
Consider making your phone less useful to potential thieves by barring calls to international numbers and premium rate lines, if you never use them. Some mobile insurance policies, or any other policies that may cover the phone, could provide limited cover for unauthorised use. It’s worth checking the terms and conditions of your existing policy, and when considering a new policy.
The national Mobile Phone Crime Unit’s Immobilise database is a free registration service that assists thepolice in reuniting owners with their stolen smartphones. For further details and contacts for different operators, see Ofcom’s Lost or Stolen Phone Guide.
It is not advisable to attempt to ‘crack’, ‘jailbreak’ or ‘root’ your smartphone or tablet. This is a process people use to remove restrictions placed on their device’s operating system by the phone manufacturer. Doing so carries considerable risks: it compromises the security of your device and may leave you more vulnerable to malicious software. It is also likely to invalidate your manufacturer’s warranty.
Smartphones offer the option to back up your data to the cloud and/or a personal computer, so that you don’t lose data if your phone goes astray. Check for information on how to do this in the phone’s manual.
Apps are the easiest way for someone to hack into your phone. Sometimes hackers will take a popular paid-for app, add their own illegitimate elements and then offer it for free on ‘bulletin boards’, ‘peer-to-peer’ networks or through fake online stores. Once the rogue app has been downloaded to your phone, the hacker can potentially take control of the handset, incur charges via premium SMS without your permission, make calls, send and intercept SMS and voicemail messages, or browse and download online content. You may not be aware anything is wrong until it’s too late. Only download apps from official stores (e.g. App Store, Google Play), and exercise care – research the app and check reviews.
It’s not just rogue apps which pose a threat to your smartphone’s security. Viruses and spyware can also be downloaded from websites, or by connecting your device to an infected computer. Some phones may be more vulnerable than others, but you can check for antivirus software in a reputable app store. Also, before connecting your device to a computer, ensure it has the latest antivirus/antispyware and firewall installed and running.
This software is typically installed by default on most smartphones, allowing you to log in to a website or an app on another device to track your phone and take action. Examples include Apple’s Find My app and Google’s Find My Device for Android.
If you decide to donate, resell or recycle your smartphone, remember to erase any data on it first. Remove and erase any media cards and perform a full or ‘factory’ reset by going into the Settings menu.
From time to time, you’ll be prompted on screen to update your operating system. App developers may also propose updates to their app. It is advisable to accept these updates as they become available. As well as typically offering new features and improving your phone’s performance, they can also fix security vulnerabilities.
Additionally, there are some lesser-known tricks to check whether your smartphone is being tracked or if your security has been breached:
For further advice on securing your smartphone and other digital device, or if you think your device has been compromised, contact us at email@example.com, on +44 (0)843 515 8686 or via our contact form. We’re here to support you.