April 4, 2018
10 Ways to Keep your Smartphone Extra Secure

By: Maria Ruiz and Ashley Thielen

Our phones are becoming a bigger part of our lives as we become more and more dependent on them. Technology has given us the ability to store all our information in our smartphones, including our credit cards, social security, passwords, email, messages, photos, and the list goes on! It is extremely crucial to know how to secure your smartphone and protect all your valuable information. Here are ten easy ways to do so.

1. Lock your screen with a secure passcode
First things first – keep your phone locked! You store all sorts of valuable information on your device and the first step to protecting it is to require a passcode to unlock it. Luckily, locking a smartphone has never been so easy. Technology has provided us with a few various unlock options, including fingerprint sensors, facial recognition, voice recognition, pattern, and the good old pin.

It’s recommended to have your phone locked the moment you stop using it as well as requiring a pin when it’s has been restarted. Also, use six digits instead of four for the pin. If you want to go the extra mile, constantly change the pin and make sure it isn’t predictable (don’t use your birthdate, “0000”, “1234”, “1111”). Nearly 3.4 million passwords are 1234, don’t be one of them. To set a passcode to unlock your phone, go to Settings > Security > Screen Lock

2. Encryption and two-factor authentication
Android devices can encrypt all data. Thieves are usually interested in wiping out all the information on your phone to resell it. You should be prepared for the worst and encrypt those phones! First, make sure your phone is fully charged. With your phone still plugged in, tap Settings > Security and scroll down to the ‘Encryption’ section. Tap ‘Encrypt phone’ and read through the security warning. Tap again to begin the encryption process. Don’t play with your phone while it’s in this process. Android will inform you when it’s complete, ETA 1 hour.

It’s easier than you think for someone to steal your password. Google offers two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security to your accounts. It requires you to sign in with something you know (your password) and something you have (a code sent to your phone). To require an extra step of verification to your Google account, visit Google’s two step verification page or go to Google Settings Privacy Checkup in your device Settings and click ‘Get Started.’ Other companies and apps are following Google’s steps and are offering similar 2-step verification for logging in, too. Check and see if your apps and accounts offer something similar.

3. Only install apps from the Play Store and uninstall apps you aren’t using
I mean this people, don’t install apps outside of the Play Store. Most Android malware comes from third party application sources. Google has been working on making the Play Store safer than ever now with Google Play Protect. This automatically scans your Android device for apps that can harm your phone and will notify you of any security risks that are found. Make sure it’s turned on by going to the Play Store Settings > Play Protect. You can see there the most recent apps scanned. Make sure to turn on the ‘Scan device for security threats’ for extra security. Check for apps you aren’t using and uninstall those for extra protection.

4. Update software and apps
Having your operating system and apps updated doesn’t just mean you will have the latest and greatest cool features, but also provides bug fixes. Updates on your phone and apps will fix patches to security vulnerabilities.

Have your apps set to auto-update over Wi-Fi so you don’t have to worry about doing it manually. To do so, go to Google Play’s Settings > General > Auto-update apps menu. Your Android phone should automatically tell you when a new update is ready to install, or you can go to Settings > About Phone > System updates to check manually.

5. Use a secure messaging app
A popular instant messaging service, WhatsApp, now offers end-to-end encryption. These types of messaging services allow you to chat freely with friends without its server being accessed by someone externally. The messages can only be visible between the two who have physical access to it.

6. How to locate and wipe your phone remotely [if it is lost or stolen]
Google Find my Device makes it easy for us to locate our if we misplace it. If you misplace your smartphone, log into your Google Account in another device and click ‘Find My Phone.’ It will guide you through steps to find its location, make it play a sound, lock, and even erase all content from the device. To make sure you have Find My Device enabled, go to Settings > Google > Security > Find my device (On)

7. Turn on Chrome’s Safe Browsing feature
Apps aren’t the only thing that can harm your phone. Unsecure web pages can steal your personal data by downloading a harmful app without you knowing. Luckily, Chrome for Android boasts a ‘Safe Browsing’ mode that will warn you if sites have nefarious activity. To make sure it’s activated, go to Chrome and click the three-dot menu button on the right corner. Tap Settings > Privacy, and make sure ‘Safe Browsing’ is checked.

8. Get apps & media locked
If you want to be a bit more EXTRA and extra protect your photos and apps, you can also download an app called ‘Safe Gallery Free’. This app will allow to protect your galleries with either a numerical or pattern-based password.

9. Back up your files
It is also very important to be backing up all your media in case something happens to your device. You can easily backup your photos and videos with your Google Account using Google Photos and Google Drive for important files, images and videos. It’s recommended that any sensitive file in your phone should be stored out of your phone and many devices now support external USB drives, that allow you to transfer files to your computer or a hard drive. The less sensitive files on your phone the better.

10. Social media and what to share
We’ll leave you with probably the most important form of security. We have become addicts in sharing our stuff on social media and sometimes it can get a bit out of hand. Don’t be guilty of TMI (too much information). The information you choose to share may be thought to be shared only to your close friends but unfortunately once your information is out it’s now on the internet and you have no control over who may see it. Skip writing personal information such as address, phone number. Also, disable location settings on social apps it’s the better and a safer option. Share your vacay pictures after you’re home, keep your passwords to yourself, and before posting a picture make sure the image isn’t giving out personal information (Kim Kardashian was robbed after displaying her expensive jewelry on social media). Also check the privacy settings on each of your social media platforms to see what information is being used and shared with third parties. Disable the permissions that allow your information to be shared externally and make sure to read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policies so you fully understand what is being done with your information!

Be smart. Be Safe.