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Our smartphones have become handy all-in-one mobile devices. Phone, banking, camera, games, weather, news… you name it and it’s only an app away. The problem is that in order for them to be so user-friendly and integral to our lives, they need to contain a wealth of personal information – which means they are a treasure trove for fraudsters.

Consider how much information is on your smartphone: Where you live, work, and places you visit; the contact details for everyone in your address book, including family, friends, and co-workers; your phone call history, including inbound, outbound, voicemail, and missed calls; texting or chat sessions within applications like secure chat, games, and social media; web browsing history, search history, cookies, and cached pages; personal photos, videos, and audio recordings; not to mention stored passwords and access to your accounts, such as your bank, social media, or email.

It’s sensitive information and we’re walking around with it each and every day.

Protecting your device

To keep your data secure you need to keep your smartphone safe. This isn’t as simple as making sure no one can steal it, but rather that if you do lose your phone (or it’s snatched from your hand), the thief can’t gain access to it.

Your first line of defence is enabling automatic screen locking. You’ll need to unlock your device each time you use it with your face, fingerprint or a strong password, but it’s worth it.

Here are a few additional tips to keeping your smartphone (and the data on it) safe and secure:

1. Update regularly: Mobile apps must be updated. App developers pay attention to how cybercriminals are hacking phones and apps and which weaknesses they are finding to exploit and updates instal important security measures. It’s an ongoing battle, so keep your apps up-to-date.

2. Install or enable trusted tracking software: This will allow you to remotely track your mobile device over the Internet. In a worst-case scenario, you’ll be able to remotely wipe all of your information as well.

3. Only download trusted apps. The start of the Covid-19 pandemic is a great example of how the app market was flooded with ‘fake’ apps promising to track covid-19 numbers and outbreaks, but which were really designed and released by hackers trying to infiltrate smartphones to steal personal information and hack into bank accounts. Cybercriminals have mastered their skills at creating and distributing malicious apps that appear to be legitimate. To avoid malicious app, only install apps you actually need and stick to trusted sources. For example, Apple’s App Store and Google Play rigorously test apps and ensure they are safe for users. It’s also a good idea to delete an app entirely when you no longer need it or are using it.

4. Update your privacy options: Your smartphones is continuously collecting a wealth of private information about you (and your friends and loved ones). Thoroughly review your device’s privacy settings and decide what each app really needs access to, particularly when it comes to your location, microphone, and contacts. When you enable permissions, you may be allowing the creator of that app to track you, even allowing them to share or sell your information to others. If you do not wish to grant these permissions, simply deny the permission request, grant the app the permission only when it’s actively being used, or shop around for another app that meets your requirements. Make sure sensitive notifications (such as verification codes) don’t appear on-screen when the device is locked.  

5. Wipe your device: Getting a new mobile phone is exciting, but don’t forget to wipe your device before you sell it, trade it in or donate it. Simply deleting data is not enough. Instead, you should securely erase all the data on your device. The easiest way to do this is to reset your phone to its factory setting.

Your smartphone is a powerful tool for you to enjoy and use in your personal and professional life. Following these simple steps can go a long way towards keeping you and your devices secure.

About the Author

Maston Lane
Group and Bank Chief Operating Officer, Sasfin Holdings

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