Do you ever get a nagging feeling that you should do more than have a four-digit PIN to protect the sensitive information stored on your phone? Perhaps you already have more in depth security in place - or none at all. A quick survey around the Snakehive office concludes we need to be more security savvy. Most of us already use our phones as mobile wallets, keys and computers complete with access to banking information, emails, important files and photos...
Taking into account people's differing approaches to tech and security we've looked into ways to make our phones more secure with top-level phone settings and apps - from the most basic to the more advanced.
Top-level 10 tips at a glance
- Set your phone to check for software updates automatically; these often include important security updates
- Set a six-digit PIN as it’s much harder to crack than a four-digit code; alternatively use a fingerprint ID only option
- Change any app passcodes regularly or consider using fingerprint only access
- Only download apps from trustworthy stores like iTunes and Google Play
- As with PCs and laptops, don't open emails from unrecognised sources or click on strange looking links
- Consider installing phone specific antivirus software to add an additional security level to your phone’s existing settings, particularly for Android devices
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi when using apps or websites with sensitive data
- Configure your phone tracking settings to pre-empt a lost or stolen phone
- Regularly back up your phone as a precaution
- Check you have the ability to erase all phone data remotely should your phone be stolen, either in your Settings or via an app
Update your software
Always update your phone with the latest version of software as many security loopholes will have been closed, and security updates will protect your data from hackers. Most manufacturers allow you to set your phone to check for updates automatically, so always make sure this box is ticked in your Settings.
Lock your screen
While some of us at Snakehive worry about the limitations of a four-digit passcode, one team member confessed to having no passcode at all – which is pretty much akin to leaving your front door open as anyone could get direct access to your precious data. At the very least make sure you set a PIN in your Settings. Set a six-digit PIN as it’s much harder to crack than a four-digit code. Here's how you do it:
Tap Apps - Settings - Lock screen and security - Screen lock type - PIN. From here you can enter a six-digit PIN to keep your device secure.
The latest iPhones prompt you to set up a six-digit PIN from the start. On an iPhone using an older version of iOS, you can still upgrade to a six-digit PIN. Tap Settings – Touch ID and Passcode – Enter your current passcode – Change Password. You’ll then be prompted to enter your current passcode one more time before creating a new one.
(Thanks to Which? for these helpful instructions.)
Alternatively, if you want to limit access to yourself and/or a few specific people, enable the Touch ID fingerprint option only in Settings. More than one set of fingerprints can often be added.
You should only download apps from Google Play for Android and iTunes for iOS; never ever use 3rd party apps. Both Google and Apple closely monitor their stores for potentially malicious applications.
Financially sensitive apps often provide a secondary layer of security and require passcodes, fingerprint ID, or even facial recognition before access or purchasing is allowed. These are usually set as part of the account set up, and can also be activated via phone Settings. We have a preference for fingerprint ID here at Snakehive; our experience with facial recognition is that it's a little unreliable, as one particular app didn't recognise us!
Protecting your software
Whether you're an Android or iOS fan the most important thing to remember is always be careful about what you install and where you install from. Malware and viruses can be transmitted in many ways; don't download anything from unknown USB sticks, get apps from untrustworthy sources, open emails from sources you don't recognise or open strange looking web links.
And definitely avoid using public Wi-Fi when using apps or websites with sensitive data to avoid a ‘man-in-the-middle’ attack. This involves a hacker intercepting your logins, passwords or financial information as you use the Wi-Fi. If you do need to check your bank account or similar, use your 3G or 4G connection instead – it’s much more secure.
While it’s common practice to protect your desktop and laptop with antivirus software, it's much less common to protect your phone. But now that we’re using our phones for more personal information there are options to install specific software that will upgrade your phone’s own security settings. This can be more relevant for Android devices as iOS phones tend to be more secure - but the jury is still out from what we've read about the need for specific antivirus software. If you do fancy trying a security app, take a look at this one:
This is a one stop shop for both Android and iOS protection and provides features to protect and track your phone. Web and app based viruses, spyware and malicious QR codes are among the privacy threats that the app can help defend against. Apparently, the premium version will even email a photo of the dishonest person to you when it detects three incorrect password attempts!
Mobile Password Managers
Don't just write your many app or website passcodes in a notebook; a more secure way is to use a password manager app, like this one:
This excellent app lets you easily access your personal information and passwords wherever you are. You can also use it to create new entries and share passwords securely.
Tracking your lost phone
If the worst happens and your phone is lost or stolen, you can track your phone if you set up in advance for both Android and iOS devises. But if your battery runs out or your phone is switched off, you won't be able to track. If this happens, check your location history to find your phone's last reported location.
Device Manager App (Free | Android)
This app locates lost devices and helps you keep your Android phone - and the data inside - safe and secure. You can reset your phone's screen lock PIN and erase all data on the phone remotely. Make sure that the 'Location Access' is switched on in your settings for the GPS tracking to work.
Find my iPhone setting (Free | iOS)
To find your iOS devise you need to ensure the Find My Phone app is set up on your phone. Tap on Settings, iCloud, then scroll down to and enable Find My iPhone. Turn on the 'Send Last Location' option, which can then send out last known location before your batteries die. Location services need to be active too - this can be set in Settings, Privacy, Location Services. You can sign into your account via the app on another iOS devise or on a desktop browser at iCloud.com, then tap Find My iPhone. You can sound an alarm, include contact information if found, lock or erase contents.
A precaution - back up your phone!
As a precaution to losing your phone or theft, make sure you have a regular back up system in place. We talked about backing up data in our blog Phone slowing down?
To sum up, a breach of our sensitive data is a nightmare for any of us if our phones get into the wrong hands. We hope our top 10 tips go someway in keeping your phone data safe. And remember to protect your actual phone with one of our Snakehive cases too - we're loving the appearance of our Vintage Wallet Collection in Vogue this month.
PS. Know someone who would like this? We'd love you to share with a friend.