Part 1 of 3: Protecting yourself
1Adopt a proactive protection mindset. This isn't about paranoia––it's about accepting the reality that sometimes there are people in your life who might want to hack into your personal details for bad reasons. For example, people whom you've fallen out with or fallen out of love with, people who didn't like something you've said or done or friends who have turned decidedly unfriendly for one reason or other. You can't predict how some relationships may turn out, with all the best will in the world, so be mindful of guarding your personal information properly.
- Use passwords. You might feel safe in the knowledge that you never share anything worth making gossip from––yet, you'll still feel violated if someone does hack your account and a password may have stopped that person. People don't just simply hack into your cellphone just because they want your information. It is more about the specific or confidential information that your cell phone contains; most of the information contained on our cellphones is information that was received from a family member, a friend, or an acquaintance. This is the information that we should be worried about being hacked into and of course there is always the possibility of your financial information being stolen, transferred from your account to another one by SMS.
- Don't share passwords with anyone else. Even when you make an exception for someone you trust deeply to help you out in a fix, such as a spouse, change the password after they've helped you.
- Don't share your phone passwords with anyone at work or in social contexts. Shield input of passwords when in public.
- Don't program passwords into your cell phone
- Don’t keep private data in your phone for a long period of time. If and when hackers compromise your email account, the data will be lost to you, most probably permanently, and not even resetting your password and logging back into your account doesn’t let you access the information you left there earlier.
2Save a backup copy of the important correspondence, attached files or photos you have on your smart phone, somewhere else. Keep the backups on your PC, laptop, tablet etc.
3Think, don't assume. Is the potential fallout of having your information stolen worth the supposed convenience? Consider the absolute worst case scenario of your 'smartphone getting hacked, then work back from that. Train yourself to stop using the phone for confidential information of any sort, and to delete received confidential information immediately after reading/backing up elsewhere. A phone completely lacking in any information worth bribing you with or selling to the highest bidder is an inconvenience if hacked or stolen, not a reputation-threatening catastrophe. Think first, don't be a mindless smartphone owner.
Part 2 of 3: Strengthening passwords
1Password protect your voicemail. One way to make sure ill-willed predators don't remove private voicemail messages from your system is to make sure that your voicemail is password protected.
- Follow the prompts that require a password to obtain voicemail directly from your phone and remote access to your voicemail. Many systems allow access to cellphone voicemail from any phone, which makes it vulnerable to hacking if you don’t activate password settings for every aspect.
- Many phones come with a voicemail password already set by default (usually very easy to guess)––if yours has this feature, change it immediately to a password known only to you.
- Too hard? Lost the literature accompanying your phone? Give the phone's retailer or your phone service a call for help.
2Choose a password that is hard to guess. It might be easy for you to remember easy passwords but passwords that rely on things such as your date of birth, the exact sequencing of digits in your phone number or anything else that is easily associated by others with the way you think and act are risky.
- Avoid using obvious passwords like birthdays, anniversaries or consecutive number sequences. The first strings hackers may try are the obvious ones that include not only your birthday, but a relative’s or pet’s birthday. Also, some people choose obvious passwords like “1,2,3,4,5”, thinking that a hacker would bypass that type of string since it’s obvious. Or, the phone user just doesn't think anyone would bother hacking their phone...
- Don't use letters that spell out words such as your mom's maiden name or your pet's name. Easily identifiable names and words can be cracked quickly by anyone who knows you well enough. Anything someone can read about you online (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, forum posts, etc.) should not end up as a password!
- Use complex sequence strings that involve an upper case letter, number and symbol. The more complex you make the string, the more secure your password. Use upper case letters it the middle of your password and throw in an obscure symbol to further complicate the password. See How to choose a secure password for more details.
3Don’t use the same password for all your phone accounts. Although using different password strings for each of your accounts can be confusing, the best way to protect your cellphone (as well as your identity in general) is to use a different password for each account accessed by phone.
4Update your phone’s password as often as possible. Don't forget to change your password often in order to keep it secure. While updating it daily may not be necessary, figure out when would be a good time to swap passwords and create something new.
- Create a password update schedule. Whether it’s weekly, monthly or quarterly, have a plan and stick to it. You could even write down in code in your datebook when you plan to update your passwords.
- When you’ve updated your passwords, write them down and store in a safe place away from your phone, handbag/wallet or anything associated with the phone. Don’t maintain a list of passwords in your datebook because if that’s lost or stolen, the finders or thieves have all your information. Write the passwords down on a separate piece of paper and maintain the log in an unmarked file in a desk drawer. Or put the paperwork in an off folder, such as one marked, “school” or “home repairs”, in the event you're robbed.
Part 3 of 3: Other security
1If you have Bluetooth enabled, make sure 'Discoverable' mode is disabled. This prevents your phone from being detected by others scanning for Bluetooth devices in the area. This is the default setting on nearly all newer phones.
2Install mobile security software if your phone supports it. Depending on the type of phone you have, there may even be free options available. For example some phones will lock out any entry after the phone has been idle for awhile. Check if your phone has this particular feature. If your phone is stolen, this lock out will stop a thief from accessing your private data.
- Contrary to popular belief, there are no "viruses" for mobile phones. There are, however, some known "malware" apps that try to steal information off of your phone. Mobile security apps will check your phone for these and notify you if any are found. Only if you have an Android device or a jailbroken iPhone could this really become necessary, however. But do be careful with downloads. Use downloads only from a reputable seller or site and take special care of pop-ups or unsolicited notices warning you of an impending problem.
- Look for an app that lets you control your phone remotely in the event it is stolen. Some apps can give you full control of your phone should it be stolen, allowing you to track its location or even completely wiping all personal data stored on the phone.
- Remember to protect the settings of the security app with its own password if it has that feature.
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- Keep your phone with you (or know where it is) at all times.
- Do not click on links in emails from a sender whom you do not trust for this can give them personal information about you.
- Treat your smartphone the same way you treat your computer––be cautious of what you open, which sites you visit and what kind of data or photos you maintain.