Here's How to Keep Your Mobile Data Secure

  • By Morgan Brown
  • Published on January 15, 2014

More than 4.4 million phones were stolen or lost in 2013, according to Consumer Reports. With 70.4% of missing phones the result of theft, there is a lot of personal data floating around in the wrong hands. So how can you keep your phone data safe? Follow these nine tips to keep your personal data safe and secure, even if your phone is stolen.

Keeping Mobile Data Safe

Set a lock screen password. The easiest way to prevent unauthorized access to the health information collected by applications on your phone is to set a password on your lock screen. While the exact steps are different for each device, you can find the steps to add a password to your lock screen for Apple, Android and Microsoft devices below.

By setting a password you can be more confident that unwelcome users won't be able to get to your sensitive health data.

In addition to adding the password, you should set a reasonable auto-lock time so that the password automatically protects your phone after you stop using it. Consider a setting of less than five minutes in order to keep it locked when not in use.

Enable Remote Wiping for Your Phone. Many phones include software that allows you to "wipe" the data on your phone should it be lost or stolen. "Wiping" a phone simply means to clear the hard drive of any data, removing all of your sensitive health information in the process. This process is typically done through the Web or desktop software that is a part of your phone's software. If you later find your device, you can restore the data from a local or cloud backup.

Double Check Push Notification Settings. Many applications send proactive notifications to your phone's home screen. In general, these notifications are valuable and make it easy to keep track of what's happening in your favorite applications. Personal health applications may send these types of notifications as well.

If you are using applications that use push notifications, review them to ensure that sensitive data isn't being shared unexpectedly to your home screen. You don't want your personal health data laying out in plain site on your phone.

Use a secure password. While it can be cumbersome to remember and type a longer password on a mobile device, it's in your best interest to do so. Instead of words, names, or places, use passwords that have a mixture of letters and numbers, with mixed cases. If the application allows it, use punctuation such as dollar signs, periods and exclamation points. Hackers often use large data sets of words to try to guess your password. Dictionaries and Bibles are a common source of potential passwords for hackers, so avoid using easy-to-guess names, words, places and historical figures.

Keep your phone out of public view. Simply putting your phone in a pocket, drawer, purse or bag can greatly reduce the chances of it being taken or accessed without your consent. While it seems like common sense, many phones are left on tables, desks, beach towels, etc., making them prime targets for theft or unauthorized access.

Update your software. While most Apple iPhone users have the latest iOS software update in place, many Android users do not. If you have not updated your phone software, your phone could be vulnerable to security breaches that are fixed in more recent updates of the software.

In most updates, the software companies have added security patches to fix vulnerabilities found by hackers in previous versions of the software. By staying up to date with the latest versions, you'll be sure to have the most recent security updates, making your phone less of a target.

Don't allow automatic outside access. Your smartphone is likely equipped with Bluetooth technology which makes it easy for your phone to connect to wireless headphones, share files with nearby devices, and connect to your car phone system. Unfortunately, Bluetooth can also be used to gain unauthorized access to your phone and application data.

Be sure to restrict access permissions from people and devices connecting to your phone over Bluetooth. Only permit connections from trusted sources, and ensure that your default setting requires that you approve any new connection before it is established.

Avoid fake Wi-Fi hotspots. If you use your smartphone out in public frequently, be diligent about the wi-fi hotspots to which you connect. Make sure they are from trusted and reputable sources. Some hackers set up fraudulent wi-fi networks with the sole intention of connecting to your phone and stealing sensitive data, including health information.

Before you connect to a wi-fi network double check to ensure it's a real one, and not a hacker masquerading as one. You can do this by asking the shop owner for the wi-fi network name, and looking for information about the network on public signs and more before connecting.

Double check application sharing permissions. When you install applications on your phone, be sure to double check the sharing and access permissions that are enabled. You want to ensure that an application doesn't connect and access any sensitive health information in the background without your awareness or consent.

You can review the current permissions that you've granted to various applications on the settings screen of your phone. If there are any that feel overreaching you can dial them back to a more conservative setting.

By being proactive about your data security you can better protect your personal information in the event of theft of loss. Put these simple steps into practice today and rest easier about how your information is secured.

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