Even if you keep your smartphone safe in your pocket or purse, it is still at risk for picking up a virus or leaking data to thieves. Hackers don’t need physical access to your phone to steal your personal information or infect the device with malware. They infiltrate your phone with innocent-looking apps or link it via unsecured Wi-Fi networks. However, you can keep hackers from getting the upper hand by taking the following steps to secure your smartphone:
Lock your phone when you are not using it. Set a password and change it regularly to prevent others from guessing it. Lock patterns are an alternative if you have trouble remembering your password. Your phone may also have a facial-recognition lock feature. If this is on, the device unlocks only when the camera detects your face. Voice recognition is another option; with this turned on, your phone needs to hear your voice say a specific word or phrase to unlock.
Activate your phone’s tracker capability, if it has one. If your phone supports this feature, you can see its location on a map and track the device when it moves. If your phone is stolen or lost, use the tracker app to lock it remotely. This makes it harder for hackers to access your data.
Update your phone’s firmware to the most current version. Many phones do this for you automatically, but if you have turned this option off, you will need to download the update manually. You can download the latest update directly from your phone. Alternatively, connect your phone to the computer and launch the software that came with the device. The application will connect to the download Web page and install the firmware on your phone.
Install apps on your phone only if they come from a trusted source, such as the manufacturer’s app store. Most official app stores verify the authenticity of their products, so they are much safer. Before downloading any app, read the description and reviews so you understand what you are getting.
Check an app’s permissions before installing it. If an app requests access to your personal information, do not install it, simply deny the request.
Avoid leaving your phone alone in a public place, such as on a restaurant table or on your office desk. If you must leave the phone, keep it locked and hide it somewhere, such as in a drawer, to prevent theft.
Delete text messages from unknown senders that ask for your information, and avoid clicking links in messages. Some hackers send messages that appear to be from your bank or another trusted source. If you click the link in the message, the hacker can steal your information or install malware on the phone. Do not download apps via text message; this is a common way for hackers to infect your device.
Access the Internet on your phone only from a secure Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi networks that aren’t secure allow nearby hackers to intercept your data when you get online. Don’t do any shopping or banking on a public Wi-Fi network; hackers can swipe your bank account number or other financial information. Instant-messaging and other communications apps may contain security holes that allow hackers to snatch your personal data. If you have access to a cellular network, use it instead of public Wi-Fi.
Protect your phone with an antivirus app. Check your phone’s app store to see what’s available for your device.