The best part about smartphones has nothing to do with the calls they can make. It’s no secret our devices have moved beyond mere holding cells for names and numbers, and have evolved into something a bit more risky: digital vaults of precious information. Which means that these days, losing your device really is equivalent to losing your wallet—and then losing all of your friends’ numbers and also leaving your Facebook logged in after you’ve left the Apple store. It can be even worse when you take into account the apps that allow you to do online banking with just one click, store your credit card numbers and allow direct access to folders on desktop computers.
At first it might feel a little inconvenient, but taking the extra steps to secure your information is worth it. Read on for a few simple tips for keeping it all locked down.
Segregating your passwords is just as bad as only having one password for everything. In other words, don’t use one password unique to your work accounts, and another unique only to your financial accounts, etc. It might sound like a chore, but every single one of your passwords should be different. We also don’t recommend having one word document that contains all of your passwords—if a thief gains access to that file or you forget the password to open it, you’re out of luck.
Short screen lock time
Most phones still can’t tell it’s you based on your fingerprints alone, so when you set a longer amount of time for your screen’s lock to trigger, you’re at a greater risk. This is especially true when you consider that many mobile device robberies happen just seconds after they’ve been in their owner’s hands—when the thief notices it being slipped in your pocket or decides to snatch it right from your hands. A short screen lock time will ensure that if you can’t have your phone, no one can.
If you use online banking or shop for items with your mobile device, it’s not enough to always log out; you need to be absolutely certain about the security of your wireless connection, too. Never share anything (including stored information like credit cards that you can’t always see) over a public connection that you wouldn’t want a hacker to see. That quick money transfer can wait until you get home.
Get your head out of the Cloud
Backing up your files on the internet by using programs like Google Drive or DropBox is convenient if you lose your hard drive, but those personal files can be accessed from your phone if you stay logged in and your phone is stolen. This is a tough rule to live by, because with the exception of bedtime, it never feels like a good time to log out of your personal accounts. But if you get into the habit, it’ll certainly pay off.
Know your media
It can be hard to keep track of all the different ways you communicate and socialize online, but it’s necessary! Blow the dust off that barely-used Tumblr account and check in to see if your last post really came from you—or if it was a spambot trying to make a sale. Be familiar with the interface and branding of your social media so you can identify any fake emails you get from hackers claiming to represent the real deal. Rule of thumb: if you haven’t used an online profile in over two months, cancel the account before it falls into the wrong hands.
Generally, always keep your devices close while you’re out in the world. The most important thing to remember is that most of the damage a thief can do occurs within a small time frame—whether it’s over an unsecure network or in the moments after stealing the device. Being prepared for them can make all the difference.
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