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How to Keep Data Secure on Your Phone
Smartphones are invaluable in modern life, keeping us connected to each other and our information. Although keeping personal data such as passwords or important documents stored on your smartphone can be handy, it leaves your data at risk.
We've come up with a list of measures you can take to protect your data and keep it private.
1. Register Your IMEI or Serial Number
The best way to protect your data is to protect your phone. Whether you have an iPhone, Android (Samsung, Nexus, Motorola, HTC, etc.), Blackberry, or any other make or model, your phone has an International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number and serial number.
These numbers can be used to track your phone if it is stolen, so write them down. You can find your IMEI and serial number underneath your phones battery. You can also find out your IMEI by calling *#06# from the phone you want the IMEI for.
Use these numbers to register your phone in a property register before it's lost or stolen. Doing so will make it easier for police to identify it if it is found.
Police in the U.S. and U.K. use www.immobilise.com as a property register, and identify phones by IMEI.
If you are living in Canada, you can submit your phone's serial number to the Canadian Police Information Centre.
2. Set a Password for Your Phone
Set a lock-screen password to prevent someone from accessing your data without permission. A lock-screen password is a fast and free way to secure your data, and it's always active regardless of whether you leave your phone unattended for five minutes or lose it for five hours.
You have several options for what type of password to set depending on your phone. iPhones commonly have four-digit key codes, while many Android devices feature a lock pattern which you punch in to get passed the lock screen. Here are a few of your options:
Lock Pattern: Draw a unique shape on a 3x3 grid of dots to use as your password. The lock pattern password can be compromised if you leave fingerprints on your phone's screen. These marks can be used to decipher or guess what the code may be.
PIN code: Commonly seen on iPhones, the PIN code is a series of numbers just like the password for your bank card. Most devices accept PIN codes between four and 17 digits, and the longer your code the more secure your device. Although a PIN number is easier to crack than a password with letters and characters, it's better than nothing.
Password Phrase: Many smartphones allow you to use a full password phrase to protect your data. Use a phrase similar to the password you have for your email account or computer, using numbers, letters, and characters. The password phrase option is by far the most secure, so if you are really set on protecting your private data, this option is for you. Note that if you have a password phrase it will take slightly longer to access your device, although the added security is worth it.
To put a lock-screen password on your phone follow these simple steps.
Step 1: Go to your phone's Settings menu.
Step 2: Scroll down and look for a tab called Security or Security or Lock Screen and tap it. On Android phones this menu is typically located under the Personal section.
Step 3: Tap the Screen Lock option under the Screen Security tab, then tap the Screen Lock option.
Step 4: Choose the lock type which you would like to use. After you activate the password feature you will be prompted to set a password. Once you've set your password, write it down in case you forget.
3. Wipe Your Data Remotely
Although you may not always be able to recover your phone, you can definitely protect your data. Should your phone fall into the wrong hands and you forgot to set a password, you can remotely wipe all data to keep prying eyes from your personal information.
If you have an Android phone you can use Google Sync or Google Apps Device Policy to wipe your phone.
As an iPhone user you can use the Find My iPhone feature from iCloud to erase your data and restore the phone to factory settings.
Blackberry users can use Blackberry Protect, which works similarly to Find My iPhone, to wipe a lost or stolen Blackberry using a synced computer.
For those of you with a Windows phone, you can try Lookout, a third party service you can get for your phone which lets you wipe data remotely.
4. Install Virus Protection
password screen Your data is a risk even when your phone is safely resting in your pocket. Without an anti-virus program your data is vulnerable to attack from hackers. If you aren't protected, your data could already be in the wrong hands.
Virus protection software is useful for any smartphone user, but essential for people with Android devices. Because Android is such a popular operating system hackers spend more time coming up with ways to hack Android phones than other devices.
Picking a program depends on your what type of phone you have, and some programs are free while others come at a price. AVG, a popular anti-virus program for computers, is available for free for smartphones and is a popular choice.
Note that although anti-virus software provides additional protection it also causes additional strain on your battery.
5. Get Yourself a Phone-Finder App
Modern smartphones come equipped with GPS technology which makes tracking a lost or stolen phone fast and easy.
All you need to do is download an app and set it up. These apps use your phone's GPS system to give you current information on the phone's whereabouts. The app which is right for your depends on your device.
iPhone users can depend on Find My iPhone, available through iCloud.
Microsoft offers a free app called My Phone for Windows Mobile for Windows phone users.
There are several popular phone tracking tools available for Android and Blackberry with more still being released, so do some research and read a few reviews to find out which one is right for you.
This post is part of a series on data security and how to keep data safe on your smartphone. Check back later for information on how to protect data for specific devices like iPhones, BlackBerries, Android phones, & more.