Perhaps more than any tool in history, our smartphones have become almost an extension of ourselves. Whether in our hand, pocket, bag or cup holder, we take them with us wherever we go. The camera serves as a second set of eyes, the search engine jogs our memory, web browsers and apps practically take us anywhere in the world, allowing us to see friends, buy products and do just about anything else we could imagine. As a certain superhero was once told, however: “With great power comes great responsibility.” With that in mind, it is our responsibility to fully understand our phones, not just passively use them. One of the most glaring examples of this is in the realm of privacy.
In a given day, casual smartphone owners may use their device to catch up with friends on a social networking app, order their parent’s birthday present online or pay their credit card bill. While each transaction might seem to be as simple as a few taps on the surface, behind the scenes there is often much more going on. Passwords are saved, location data is stored and the phone becomes a repository for data about us.
With such intimate access to our personal data, it’s crucial we take every step possible to secure our smartphones. While many have substantial privacy settings, the default set-up is often not the most secure. To best protect your identity and personal information, you must proactively augment your device’s security. Here are a few basic settings you can explore that may help improve you smartphone’s privacy:
Lock your device with a password
Often times, smartphone users lock their devices with a four-digit passcode or pattern. While they may be popular because they are easy to remember and quick to input, that convenience comes at a cost: security. Instead of a passcode or pattern – or worse, nothing at all – secure your phone with a password. By including both upper and lowercase letters, as well as numbers in a longer keyword, passwords are far more secure than passcodes or patterns. In addition to being much more difficult to glimpse with a peek over your shoulder, a long password simply offers thousands of times more possible combinations than simpler alternatives. For example, compared to a five-point patterns, a five-character password offers nearly 400,000 times more combinations, according to tech website MakeUseOf. The most secure passwords use numbers, capital and lowercase letters, and are at least eight characters long.
Turn off ad tracking
To serve up relevant ads targeted at your demographic and interests, smartphones often track your online activity. This may include the sites you visit, the games you play or even who you communicate with. As more of this data is collected and transmitted to advertising companies, the chances of your information being involved in a data breach grows. Many smartphones offer a way to limit or restrict this sort of tracking altogether, but it may be difficult to find. Search carefully through the privacy settings on your phone so that you can turn this feature off.
Disable password saving
Again trading security for convenience, many web browsers and operating systems offer to remember the passwords to your favorite websites and apps. While this could save you a few seconds each time you log it, it also makes it possible for an ID thief to gain access to your account if he or she were to find or steal your phone. Clearing out your cache can remove any existing saved passwords from your browser’s memory, and disabling the feature can protect you going forward.
While adjusting these settings can help improve your identity theft protection, there is unfortunately no way to completely eliminate your risk of the crime. Signing up with a credit monitoring service can help, adding yet another layer of security to help combat identity theft. Credit monitoring companies like Identity Guard can keep an eye on different data points and alert you to certain activity that may indicate fraud. To learn more, contact us today.