The smarter our phones get (i.e. the more things they can do to help us manage our lives), the greater our risks become. The reason is because smartphones are so easy to steal and gain access to the personal and financial information we keep on them. [Check out this CNN news story on a cell phone thief who then posted a selfie on the victim’s Facebook page and asked for money!] Most people do little to protect their personal information or accounts through their smartphones. A 2013 Norton report revealed that 48% of respondents did not secure their phones with a password/passcode or back up their smartphones.
Perhaps it is because these devices feel like they are an extension of our hands. A body part. Ask most people how far your smartphone is from you during the course of the day and we bet that most people will say less than ten feet at nearly all times. (This is certainly true of us!)
And yet, people leave themselves vulnerable by doing one or more of the following:
- Do not use a passcode/password to access the phone
- Use a passcode but share that passcode with friends (This is typical kid behavior)
- Do not back up data on a smartphone
- Leave a smartphone autologged into multiple accounts such as email, social media and financial accounts such as iTunes and other shopping sites
Smartphones are commonly targeted by thieves and theft is on the rise in most major cities. Check out the information cited in this 2014 article on The Business Insider.
Consumer Reports noted that Smartphone thefts rose to more than three million in 2013.
We also know that it isn’t uncommon for teens to play a “practical joke” on someone by accessing another’s smartphone and doing something with it that is embarrassing or humiliating to the owner. How did the others get into phone that is passcode protected? Others know the passcode.
Technically speaking, the risks we are addressing in this article are not scams. However, theives and others target people’s smartphone because they are easy pickins’ and lead to financial rewards.
What can we do to reduce our risk and better protect ourselves? It isn’t as hard as it seems.
- Set a screen passcode and do NOT use simple passcodes such as 1111 or 1234
- Have a data back up plan that automatically backs up your cell phone stuff. Visit a service provider to help you set it up if you don’t know how.
- Set up software that will automatically locate your phone if lost AND cannot be shut off without entering a password. Not sure how? Ask the store where you purchased the phone or your cell service provider.
- If you are using smartphones that are vulnerable to malware (such as the Android), install antivirus/antispyware software on your phone
- Never leave yourself logged into shopping sites, financial accounts or even email. (Why not email? If I stole your phone in Des Moines, Iowa I could visit the websites of all banks in Des Moines and try to enter your email address along with “forgot my password.” When I hit your correct bank, guess where it will send a new link to reset your bank password?)
- Keep your phone in front of you when you are out at a restaurant, bar, etc. or, better yet, keep it in a front pocket or zipped/closed pocketbook that is in front of you.
- If you truly paranoid or have a lot to lose, install software that will erase the contents of your phone remotely! (See articles below.)
Remote Wipe a Mobile Device (Android)
Lookout: Remote Wipe App for Android
How to Remotely Wipe Your iPhone Data When Stolen
Erase Your iPhone Remotely
Find Your Lost Android Device with Android Device Manager
8 Ways to Keep Your Smartphone Safe
Android Smartphones Rank Highest for Malware Vulnerability: Should You Be Worried?
How to Deter Smartphone Thefts and Protect Your Data
iPhone Activation Lock Introduced by Apple
iPhones most vulnerable amongst smartphones
The Security Cracks in Your Smartphone
Smartphone Thefts Rise in 2013
Smartphones: Protect your Data (from PrivacyRights.org)