Asking a person if they’ve ever lost their phone is like asking if they’ve ever been in love. Admit it – you’ve misplaced your phone multiple times. Sometimes in the same day. Usually, it’s under the covers. One time I found my phone on the ground right outside my car door. In a mall parking lot.
Losing your wallet can cause some distress. But you can use your phone right then and there to cancel your credit cards. Losing your phone puts you in panic mode. For good reason. Nearly every aspect of your life is in that phone.
What’s in That Thing?
Do you remember what’s actually stored on your smartphone? Let’s take a walk down memory lane. Can you recall all the pictures and videos you’ve taken? That trip to Paris. Your child’s first steps. Oh, big deal, you’re thinking, all that stuff goes right to the cloud. If I lose my phone, I’ll still have them. I don’t care if a stranger sees those pictures and videos. Okay. What about the picture you took to show your doctor? Or that other video? Just sayin’.
It’s not just babies and breakfast we take pictures of. Many of us snap a photo of important documents before we mail them. Not everything can be or should be handled online. I’ve got pictures of tax documents on my phone. I’ve also got Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, and notes galore. Everything from my secret mac and cheese recipe to my profit and loss statement.
Are You Sure?
Well, you’re thinking, I don’t keep sensitive files on my phone. I delete those pics and vids from my phone right away. Did you remember to go to your “deleted” folder and really, truly delete them? Have you ever emailed sensitive files to, say, your accountant? They’re on your phone. The point is, odds are high that something very private and / or embarrassing is on your phone.
If you haven’t secured your smartphone and it’s stolen, you may be in big trouble. Let this be your guide to smartphone security.
Not As Easy As 1234
The first line of defense is your phone’s pin code. You have the option of using four or six numbers. It’s best to go with six. Don’t pick obvious numbers like your birthday. I’ve used the house numbers from homes I sold years ago. Random numbers are difficult to crack, but hard to remember. You can take the first six letters of your favorite food and convert it into the corresponding numbers on your phone’s keypad. Once I used the first name of a boy I had a crush on in junior high. T-H-O-M-A-S = 846627. Also change the code periodically. (I’m over him now.)
I Hardly Recognized You
Use your phone’s face recognition or fingerprint technology. When you restart your phone, you will have to enter your pin code. Again, pick a code you can remember. Note that some apps allow you to use bio security as a login. Your password is a backup. I have had instances where my fingerprint was not recognized. Likely due to pressing the home button at an odd angle.
I’ll Find You
There are phone trackers like Tile Mate. A four pack is $60. You associate a tile with your phone. Press a button and Tile Mate rings your phone (even if the sound is turned off). Or, login to the vendor’s app to locate it on a map. You can also use Tile Mate to track your keys and purse.
Don’t Go Public
Even if you don’t physically lose your phone, hackers can access your data when you use public WiFi. Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) while connected to public WiFi is your best defense. VPN’s protect your data with encryption technology. They can hide your identity with sneaky stuff like routing your connection to one of their servers. Or masking your IP address. Cough up the cash for the paid version of VPN. Free VPN is less robust. Most vendors offer a free trial so you can try before you buy.
In Case You Need It
You can buy a security case for your phone, like the Vysk QS1. The Vysk case physically locks down your phone so you can make secure phone calls. It disables the phone’s microphone, camera, and speakers. It uses an independent microphone and onboard processor to encrypt voice calls. The receiver must also have a Vysk case.
End to end encryption for voice and video is a software solution available to all. Facetime uses it. When you’re on a Facetime call, the data is encrypted before it is sent over to the person on the other end. The call is stored on the user device, not Apple’s servers. And, Apple has no way to decrypt the data between sender and receiver. They claim they could not comply with a wiretap warrant even if they wanted to. BBM and WhatsApp are available for Android.
Erase It All
If your phone is stolen, both iPhone and Android offer a function to remotely erase all the data on your phone. Use automatic cloud backup so you won’t lose everything should you need to employ this.
Phone security is ultimately up to you. At a minimum, use a high-quality VPN and a strong PIN. You could change your PIN right now. No time like the present.