Personal Smartphone Security Guide

Personal Smartphone Security Guide

There is no question that technology makes life more convenient. With smartphones, individuals have access to an unlimited amount of information on the go. From checking email to checking bank balances, the smartphone has become almost a necessity for a large portion of the population. However, aside from the added information, there is also added risk.

Many newer smartphones have touchscreens that allow for fingerprint scanning and other lock-out functions.

Here are seven different ways users can keep their smartphones secure and avoid unnecessarily compromising their privacy and personal information.

Using Passwords on the Phone and Within Apps

Passwords provide the first level of protection on a smartphone. Aside from requiring a password to access the phone, it is also possible to set up passwords for certain apps to provide an added layer of security. This makes it more difficult for someone picking up a smartphone to access all of the secure information it contains.

Security Software

The risk of malware is increasing as hackers continue to gain access to mobile devices. Everything from a suspicious email to downloading an app could be an opportunity for malware to be installed on a device. Security software can provide a wall between the malware and the smartphone.

Avoiding Public Wi-Fi

While public Wi-Fi is convenient, it poses a risk to smartphone users. It is possible for others to use a Wi-Fi network to gain access to the information contained on someone else's smartphone. It is important to look for secure Wi-Fi connections or use the connection provided by the smartphone's coverage provider instead.

Bluetooth Vulnerability

Bluetooth is another great example of an added convenience that can lead to increased security risk. Today's cybercriminals use methods like bluejacking and bluebugging to create a security threat on a smartphone. There are ways to protect the phone from Bluetooth access and avoid the invasion of privacy.

  • Mobile Security Threats - MySecureCyberspace, created by Carnegie Mellon University, provides information about the first known mobile phone malware and how Bluetooth leaves users susceptible to security threats.
  • Cyber Threats to Mobile Phones (PDF) - The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team provides steps to protect a smartphone and details some of the risks and consequences that users might face if their phone is hacked into.
  • Mobile Security Tips (PDF) - The NJCU Department of Information Technology provides safety tips, including an explanation of how Bluetooth can create smartphone security risks.
  • Consumer Guide to Wireless Device Security (PDF) - In addition to other helpful tips, this document focuses on some of the risks of using Bluetooth, including bluejacking and bluebugging.

App Permissions

How many apps are downloaded on the average smartphone? Unfortunately, not all apps are harmless. In reality, some of the apps that may seem unimposing on the outside are actually gaining access to all sorts of personal information from the smartphone. This could include a person's location or even information about other individuals connected to the smartphone user.

Back Up Data

Most people understand the importance of backing up data on the computer. Because smartphones can perform many of the same tasks, they also need to be backed up on a regular basis to avoid the loss of information. Backing up data also comes in handy should a smartphone need to be remotely "wiped clean" to remove personal information from its contents if it is lost or stolen.

  • Backing Up Data - Emory Libraries and Information Technology offers information about why data should be backed up and how to secure the backup information.
  • Disposal of Your Mobile Device - According to the Federal Trade Commission, it is important to dispose of a smartphone properly in order to avoid security risks even after the phone is no longer in use.
  • Smartphone Security Checker - The FCC offers a free security checker for users to examine their specific smartphones for potential risks.
  • Best Practices for Smartphone Security - After an explanation of security threats, this site offers ten tips for keeping a smartphone safe, including backing up and securing data.

Remote Lock/Delete Apps

If a smartphone falls into the hands of the wrong person, the effects can be devastating. There are different ways to remotely lock a smartphone so that it cannot be used by anyone else. It is also possible to remove information from a smartphone that is no longer in the possession of the owner. These apps are a great way to add a safety net to the phone's security should it be lost or stolen.

  • Deter Smartphone Thieves and Protect Data - The Wireless Association explains what smartphone users can do before the phone is stolen to avoid data loss and the theft of personal information.
  • Mobile Device Cybersecurity - This resource for students details how to take the security of a smartphone (both physically and electronically) seriously.
  • Outsmarting Phone Thieves - The New York City Police Department provides detailed steps for preventing theft as well as the loss of privacy should the phone be stolen.
  • Smartphone Configuration Settings (PDF) - The University of Washington offers tips for employees to protect personal and university information, including remote wipe services.