As you now know, I do everything on my phone, and I like to think that I keep everything pretty safe, but the sad truth is that it took having my phone stolen, twice in just a few days, to get me to give any thought to security.
Last year, I was both mugged and pick pocketed in the same week. Had this happened ten, maybe even five years ago, I would have gladly let the phones go, and simply blocked the account with my provider. My biggest concern would have been the thieves making long distance calls and racking up an enormous phone bill.
After the scare of being mugged, calling the police and coming to my remaining senses, I realized just how badly I had prepared my phone for falling into the wrong hands. While MI5 hadn’t entrusted me with any top secret apps (very wise on their part), I didn’t even have a basic pin to protect it.
As soon as I got home, I didn’t even have time to sit around feeling sorry for myself because I had to get online and change the passwords to, well, everything. I had to remember which apps I didn’t want accessed, Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Vine to name but a few, but the biggest worry was my email account. I hate deleting things, and was essentially using my Gmail account as mass storage for a range of important documents from scans of my passport to work contracts.
Sadly, it never occurred to me that I might want to back up my phone; so along with all my contacts, text messages and emails, the thieves also got away with over 900 of my favorite photos. It sounds melodramatic, but thinking about someone going through my personal files and photos like that made me feel like my home had been broken into. I felt violated. While it’s unlikely that the criminals sat around snooping through my pictures, I also had no way of ever getting them back.
So here are some basic tips, which in my book are simple, mobile musts:
Use a Pin code:
Some of you will think that this is so simple it doesn’t need to be said. Yet, despite being relatively sensible (and a little neurotic) this is the one thing I failed to do (twice). While it wont stop an expert from accessing your phone, it should hopefully give you a bit more time to get online and change your passwords.
Back up your files:
Personally I like the Dropbox app, it syncs automatically with my HTC’s gallery, and all my photos are backed up without me having to think about it. Most modern mobiles will come with free cloud storage, so make sure you sign up. That way, nothing is lost.
Delete sensitive and private documents from your phone and email. Once you’ve set up a password for an account, be it for an online shopping site, or email account, delete, delete, delete. Your email account is not the place to store passport information or wedding certificates (I should know) – so make sure they’re not lurking in your sent box.
Research shows that we’re spending more time on our mobiles browsing the internet , which means we’re clicking more links and opening more attachments. It’s easy enough to get free security software, (I use AVG AntiVirus for Android on my HTC One). AntiVirus helps phone clean, but can also help you recover or lock your phone remotely, if it gets lost or stolen.
I’ve only recently realised how important it is to keep your phone and all your apps updated. Updates often address security problems with the old apps, without which you and your data are quite vulnerable. Fortunately, these are easy to install and most mobiles will send you notifications as soon as they are available.
June 6, 2014