Summary: Our cell phones have become a literal lifeline for just about everything we do. From banking to healthcare to work to loved ones, most of us carry our whole life around in our pocket — so making sure you’re staying as secure as possible is more important than ever. We’ve got the best security tips for when you’re on the go, and they’re so simple you can implement them from anywhere.
Far from the days when our cell phones were just used to make calls on the go, we’re now using them for everything from health and wellness to work to email to connecting with friends… and everything in between.
That also means that security and privacy on your mobile device have never been more important. But you don’t have to go off the grid to protect your information while out and about. One of the biggest reasons people are resistant to security measures is because it makes their life harder – or it takes more time to log in.
But having everything readily available for you also means that it’s readily available for any hackers, too. So trust us: it’s better to spend a few extra minutes logging into your phone every day than to spend hours trying to get your data back.
Follow these 7 tips and stay safer without making your life harder. They’re so simple, you can do them all this afternoon — we promise.
Create a Password to Lock Your Screen
You have a few choices for this tip. Most phones offer the ability to use facial recognition, fingerprint recognition, numeric code, or a pattern. You can choose whatever works best for you, but if you’re opting for a code or pattern, don’t choose anything too obvious. Avoid an easily guessed code (like 1234 or 1111) or pattern (such as a straight or diagonal line) so you can actually keep unwanted visitors out of your personal information.
You can also set a preference for how often your phone will lock itself. Maybe you want more than 1 minute to set your phone down and come back to it, but 5 minutes is too long. Again, choose what works for you, but remember the longer you allow it to remain unlocked after using it, the more chances others will have to get into your storage.
Update Your Software
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: regularly install software updates. While bigger updates can take a bit longer, and sometimes the improvements take adjustment, these updates do more than offer new emojis or screen layouts. Software updates are designed to fix areas that are more vulnerable to security breaches, solve bugs, and more.
Not only does updated software literally keep you safer by implementing those patches, but it also means that potential hackers have had less time to figure out weak spots in the new system. Plus, if you make regular updates, they’ll take less time to install because the changes aren’t so big — that’s a win for everyone.
Double Check Your Apps
Before you download anything from the app store, be sure that it’s the real deal. Copycat apps are popping up faster and faster and can look convincingly real. The sheer number of Wordle look-alikes recently is a great example. And the original version of that game didn’t even have an app!
Here are a few ways to verify an app before downloading it:
- Download it from the app store. Whether you’re using an Apple or Android phone, both have app stores with security requirements. While you could still end up with a risky app from one of these places, it’s far less likely than if you go rogue and download it somewhere else.
- Read the reviews. Just like you read reviews before making an online purchase or checking out a new restaurant, read the reviews of an app. At a bare minimum, look at the ratings. If you know the app is popular, yet it only has a handful of reviews, that’s a sign something could be wrong.
- Check the developer. This can also tip you off to see if it’s the real (or correct) company. When in doubt, do a quick online search.
- Consider if you need the app. While just about everything offers one, you might not need them all. Entering your information into apps means more people have access to that data — and even if you’re being careful about what you download, each new account could increase the risk of a data breach, so it’s worth thinking about.
Avoid Public WiFi
Public WiFi, or an unsecured network, makes it easier for other users on that same network to grab your information. Because the data you’re sending is unencrypted, it’s much easier to read, which could open you up to hacking.
These networks are often found in places like airports, doctors’ offices, coffee shops, and stadiums. While we recommend either using cellular data or just staying off your phone and enjoying where you are, we’ve also been in situations where public networks are all there is.
If you’re using public WiFi, avoid entering any sensitive information. Stay off your banking apps, online shopping apps, or anywhere else you have private information stored.
Don’t Jailbreak or Root Your Phone
Jailbreaking on iPhones or Rooting on Androids is the process of removing the safeguard manufacturers have put into place. This might sound tempting because it allows you to access anything you want, such as unofficial app stores, but it also puts you at a much higher risk. The apps on illegitimate stores are far more likely to hack into your phone and steal your information than those found in the Google Play or Apple App stores.
Plus, rooting or jailbreaking a phone voids the warranty. In other words, you’re removing the safeguards for your physical phone, too — if you shatter your screen, you’ll have to pay to replace it yourself.
Turn Off Bluetooth, AirDrop, and Nearby Share
All these features are easy ways to pair with nearby devices or share files with those near you — but leaving them on all the time can also open your device up to unwanted interactions.
Bluetooth channels are often on by default, but hackers can hide malicious devices and trick you into connecting your phone with it. If they have access to your phone through that device, they could use it for even more security breaches. When you don’t need Bluetooth, turn it off. And always make sure you know exactly what you’re connecting to.
Apple’s AirDrop and Google’s Nearby Share are both convenient ways to share files, such as photos, with someone who is geographically close to you. Rather than sending a text message with the attachments, you can drop the files to your friend. However, it is possible that cyber criminals could attempt to track users, crash their devices, or even intercept what’s being sent.
While there’s no reason not to use these features, they shouldn’t be on all the time.
Opt for a Trusted Provider
While no one can prevent all security breaches, make sure you choose a trusted mobile provider. One great option? EarthLink Mobile. With five plans to choose from — ranging from basic talk and text to unlimited data — there’s something for everyone. We’ll never sell your information, and you can enjoy transparent pricing and award-winning customer service. Plus, we offer a whole suite of cyber safety products. Even ones that are made for your phone.
Follow these 7 tips and you’ll be well on your way to staying safer wherever you roam. Looking to stay safer online, too, and not just on your phone? Check out our entire cyber safety suite. Pro tip: it pairs perfectly with fiber internet. Happy scrolling!