Ten smartphone security tips

Smartphone security tips - Featured image

Check out DataProt’s guides for the best smartphone security software:

  1. Best VPN for Android
  2. Best VPN for iOS
  3. Best Antivirus for Android

Adulting can be hard. Eat your greens, exercise, get enough sleep, pay your bills. And always remember to keep your phone protected. With how prominent smartphones are in our everyday lives, mobile security has become one of those topics you just cannot avoid. We are constantly reminded to change our passwords, update our operating system and apps, take care with the sites we visit, and so on. While most of us have accepted that getting hours of sleep and having a healthy diet are pipe dreams, perhaps we can do better at using our favorite tech gadgets responsibly.

We have compiled a list of our top 10 smartphone security tips to keep you and your data safe from prying eyes.

Top 10 security tips for your smartphone

1. Make sure your screen is always locked

Our first tip may seem like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised at just how many people forget the basics. 

There are several valid smartphone lock methods, and you can even use apps to lock your phone. We recommend using a fingerprint scanner if your device has one. It is a more secure method than FaceID, as fingerprints are not only unique to each individual on the planet, but differ between each finger as well. If you don’t have access to the most secure cell phone protection method and are wondering how to lock your apps, there are other options as well, such as face identification, PIN codes, PIN lock apps, passwords, and unlock patterns. Just be careful not to use overly simplistic patterns or obvious PIN codes such as your year of birth or an easily guessable sequence of numbers.

2. Keep your phone software updated

A safe phone is more than just a screen-locked phone. Many hacker exploits rely on vulnerabilities in mobile operating systems – doubly so on Android platforms, which are subject to the largest number of smartphone hacks of any smartphone platform. Android smartphone security relies on constant updates to keep ahead of the hackers, but many people turn automatic updates off. Furthermore, in a bid to keep buyers purchasing new phones, many manufacturers deliberately cut support for the latest operating systems from their older models. If you want to stay on top of things, make sure to actively keep track of OS upgrades in order to avoid a variety of potential smartphone security issues that stem from outdated software on your phone.

3. Create strong passwords

Another obvious tip that doesn’t apply only to mobile phones is to be extra careful with your passwords. Many people settle for obvious and easily guessable passwords. These can include their names or surnames, those of their pets or family members, and other information that would be obvious, such as birth year, month, or date. Try using passwords that start with a capital letter, and include symbols and numbers. For even more security, you could try acronyms or using a smartphone password manager

4. Don’t reuse passwords

Speaking of smartphone security tips, it’s not just weak passwords, but the lack of password variety that can lead to data breaches. A lot of people take the easy way out and use the same two or three passwords for every app they use and site they visit. Don’t do that. It’s fine to use simple and repeatable passwords for things like gaming website accounts, as long as you don’t use the same ones for your phone or online banking.

5. Don’t save personal log-ins and payment details on your phone

If “how to secure my phone from hackers” appears on your to-do list, start by taking a few simple steps to ensure that hackers have to work hard to get at your data. Not even the best smartphone security apps can make up for basic negligence. A lot of people tend to trade security for convenience by leaving important information stored on their phones so they do not have to enter it again when logging into social networks or making online payments. This makes it really easy for those with access to your phone to swipe information that could potentially cost you more than just some embarrassing personal correspondence leaking out. 

Web browsers are another common hunting ground for hackers. Smartphone security tips for your browser often mention the various risks associated with surfing the web on your phone. We’re not talking just about the risks that occur due to various internal security vulnerabilities, either. A more common and overlooked risk involves leaving your browser in charge of log-ins and passwords, by letting them remember all of the data for you. Be smart and responsible when using your phone – it’s easier to enter your email password, forum log-in, or credit card details every time than to cope with such a loss of data.

6. Download apps only from secure sources

When talking about smartphones and security, another often overlooked aspect is using only official and sanctioned software. Although it may be tempting to jailbreak or root your phone and make use of third-party apps promising to speed up and unlock extra features on your phone, try to avoid the temptation. Both Google and Apple have strict rules on what apps are allowed on their stores for a reason – many internet phone apps contain malware and exploits that are designed to steal personal data from your phone. Making sure to only use official software won’t necessarily give you the most secure phone, but it’s definitely an important and often overlooked step in the process of keeping your private data safe. It’s no accident that mobile manufacturers do not look kindly on people rooting or jailbreaking their devices or using third-party app sites – those safety precautions are there for a reason.

7. Install an antivirus solution on your mobile phone

Here’s another idea that doesn’t originate on mobile devices, but works just as well as it does on personal computers. There are many cell phone security apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile devices. You should use one, even though it can seem a bit overwhelming choosing one. 

There has been a lot of bad press about how phone security apps can slow down your device. In reality, most good ones are pretty unobtrusive and cause slowdowns only when doing deep scans. On the other hand, they can make sure that your phone is safe from malware files and exploits even if you do visit suspicious sites or try to download apps that might otherwise damage your device or steal data. They are not omnipotent, though, so you should still be careful with the files you download and the sites you visit.

As for which solutions you should pick, mobile phone security tips generally recommend sticking with the tried-and-true software that works well on PCs, so you can’t go wrong with the likes of BitDefender, Norton, Kaspersky, or McAfee, who all have mobile-optimized versions of their desktop antivirus solutions, especially tailored for mobile operating systems and the dangers that mobile apps pose. To make things even better, a lot of antivirus companies bundle free versions of their mobile software when you purchase desktop versions. Just make sure that you are really downloading a legitimate smartphone security app, as a lot of malicious software and malware programs pose as antivirus solutions, junk file cleaners, and similar helpful apps. Use your best judgement and check what other people have to say about an app before downloading it. This is another benefit of using officially sanctioned app stores – even if you don’t notice a malicious app, chances are that others will notice and report something.

8. Consider using a VPN and be careful with public Wi-Fi connections

The term “VPN” gets thrown around a lot in the tech community these days. Smartphone security tips by Wired, PC Mag, and other popular tech sites often talk about the importance of being careful when connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots and unprotected sources of free internet. VPNs – virtual private networks – are an excellent solution. While it’s a good general practice to stay away from unsecured public networks (which most hackers love, as they often lack important security features and encryption, which makes their job a lot easier), using a VPN can bolster your mobile data security in those situations when you need to get online and are out of other options. They do so by connecting to an external server and masking your IP to hide your device’s true location. 

9. Make sure you’re protected when using Bluetooth

A surprising amount of people don’t realize the dangers of Bluetooth. While this handy device-pairing protocol can save you a lot of hassle in transfering files or connecting devices wirelessly, it can also be an easy way for hackers to get into your phone if you do not use it responsibly. Make sure to keep your device from being discoverable and always turn off Bluetooth when you are not using it. Despite what some mobile device safety tips suggest, a hacker is not lurking around every second that your device is available on the network, but it pays to be careful, nonetheless. 

Always make sure you recognize the device that you’re pairing with, and try to keep your connection only as long as it’s necessary to do whatever it is that you’re trying to do. Don’t be lazy – too many people tend to leave Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on permanently, only to regret it later. Sure, forgetting to switch off Bluetooth is not nearly as dangerous for your mobile device security as connecting to unprotected public networks, downloading suspicious files, or running outdated software… but why not cover all the bases when you are already making an effort?

10. Stay away from cloud storage and enable remote data wiping

Cloud storage is all the rage these days. It offers a ton of reliable storage for all of your data, and provides yet another means of keeping your files safe in case your phone gets lost or damaged. But there’s a catch.

Android devices are automatically synced with people’s Gmail accounts and Google Drive. Let’s face it: Despite what some iOS and Android smartphone security tips say, Google and other similar cloud service providers like Megaupload have been involved in various shady dealings involving people’s personal data. While Big Brother probably doesn’t have the time or interest to go through the thousands of pictures from your wedding or graduation party, you’d still do well to remember that most governments reserve the right to make such providers share the data that they have. 

Some argue that they have nothing to hide, and, in all honesty, your data definitely is safer with a reputable cloud storage provider than it is with a hacker. Still, if you’re worried about security for smartphones, you’ll make sure to understand exactly what you’re signing up for when using cloud services. Instead of trading the convenience of easy cloud storage for potential security risks, think about using encrypted USB disks or similar hardware. Also, consider enabling the option to remotely delete all of your phone data. This will allow you to quickly destroy any private data should your phone get lost, stolen or hijacked.

Why is cell phone security important?

Smartphones are the most widely used electronic devices in our daily lives. Once upon a time, we used our cellphones only to call someone or send an important text message. These days, they have become more akin to portable computers. With a wealth of features, social networking, and time-saving apps, smartphones have become an essential part of our daily routine. Whether you are organizing your work schedule, hitting on someone on Tinder, ordering Chinese, or keeping track of your fitness regime, a secure cell phone provides peace of mind that your personal data will not end up in the hands of those who could use it to do you harm.  

First off, we store and share a lot of sensitive and personal data on our phones – messages, pictures, videos, login credentials, passwords, and more. Whether you become a victim of a smartphone hack or simply lose your device, there is a lot at stake should your phone data get compromised.

Our mobile security best practices list has both basic and advanced security tips for smartphone users, but it pays to remember that common sense is your best friend. Keeping your device up-to-date prevents many operating system exploits. Avoiding suspicious websites and third-party apps can help keep you safe from malware, while having a screen or guest/child lock on your phone makes it hard for random people to gain easy access to your files by just picking up your phone. These and many other tips are explained in more detail below, so let’s get right to it.

FAQ:

How to secure an Android phone from hackers?

Follow the tips on our list and use your best judgement.

There are a multitude of ways to secure mobile phones, no matter what operating systems they use. There is nothing particularly different about Android devices other than the fact that they have to contend with more hacks and malware than other devices. Having a good screen lock, using strong passwords, employing biometric authentication and smartphone security software, keeping your operating system up-to-date, and being careful with wireless and Bluetooth connections are the primary ways to make sure you won’t get hacked. For other ideas, check our guide.

How to know if your phone is hacked?

Look for signs of unusual behavior.

These may include suddenly sluggish performance, data loss, unusual account-related activities or a sudden decrease in battery life.

Which phone is best for security?

The BlackBerry KEY2.

While many Android and iOS smartphones come with impressive security features, BlackBerry has a long pedigree as a business-friendly, security-oriented manufacturer whose smartphones have industry-leading privacy and security features. In addition to using cryptographic keys to ensure that your device hasn’t been tampered with, Blackberry also uses AES-128 full-disk encryption, rather than encrypting individual files as Android does.

Do Android phones need antivirus protection?

Yes.

Getting an antivirus solution is definitely one of our most important smartphone security tips. While not necessarily mandatory, AV software goes a long way toward protecting your device from unwanted intrusions, especially if you make a habit of downloading third-party apps or visiting sites that contain harmful attack scripts and malware. As we’ve said, due to their global popularity, Android devices are some of the most vulnerable technological gadgets around, so it pays to take every possible precaution. Can smartphones be hacked despite having an antivirus solution? Of course they can be. But it’s much easier for hackers if you don’t have one.