Many of us see our smartphones as extensions of ourselves, keeping us connected to the most important things and people in our lives; our personal contacts, emails and photos, and maybe even our credit card numbers, bank statements and health information.
Of course, the convenience of storing so much valuable personal information on one little device can come at a price: Losing a phone can have unwelcome consequences, ranging from simple property loss to full-scale identity theft or financial fraud.
Fortunately, smartphones can be primed with more built-in protections than many other valuables, and with a little careful planning, even a loss or theft can be manageable. Here are some tips on what to do:
Securing Your Phone Before You Lose It
Minimize the risk to your physical device in advance by installing a phone-recovery app. CTIA, a non-profit association for the wireless industry, provides a list of smartphone security apps designed to do everything from remotely locking and wiping your phone in the event of theft, to tracking your device and backing up contacts. There’s even an app that will email you a photo of someone attempting to log in with the wrong password.
The Federal Communications Commission also recommends you keep these smartphone security tips in mind:
- Set and use your personal identification number (your “PIN”) and passwords. A PIN on your home screen is a first line of defence, the FCC says. Also, use different passwords on the different apps, websites and accounts you access via your smartphone. This can help prevent a thief who gets a hold of one password from accessing all your various accounts.
- Don’t alter your phone’s recommended security settings. This can undermine your phone’s built-in security features, the FCC says. But do install security updates and software patches regularly, which can help reduce your exposure to constantly evolving threats.
- Back up your data regularly — either on your computer, a removable storage device, or the cloud.
- Be judicious with apps. Only install apps from trusted sources — which you can help ascertain by checking reviews, confirming the legitimacy of the app store, etc.
Securing Your Phone After It’s Lost or Stolen
Even the best-laid security plans sometimes fail, so it’s important to have an action plan in place in case your phone is lost or stolen. The wireless association CTIA
recommends a few key stepsthat can mitigate the damage:
- Report a stolen phone. File a report with law enforcement authorities, and then your wireless carrier, which will add your phone to a wireless industry database so that it can’t be activated on any wireless carrier without your permission. If it’s a work phone, follow your company’s IT and security protocols, too.
- Activate your smartphone security app. If you’ve pre-installed such an app, this is the time to activate it. The CTIA says safety should be your priority, so you should never attempt to recover your own phone. But you can activate the tracking feature and pass any “pings” or location information along to authorities.
- Erase sensitive data. If you’ve activated your phone recovery app, it will likely allow you to lock your phone and erase all the data remotely.
- Consider changing your passwords on various sites – especially if you had cookies enabled on your device. Bank accounts, work and personal email accounts may all be in danger.
Losing a smartphone can undeniably be a big headache, but as with most things, a little preparedness can go a long way.
This guest post comes from the editors of the Allstate Chicago Blog, which helps locals prepare for the unpredictability of life.