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Is the data on your phone secure? Here's how to make sure it is

Security is always a major concern but you have the tools to help prevent the worst from happening.

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IT’S ALWAYS A concern whether your phone’s data is secure or not.

The devices hold so much personal information and sensitive data that if yours fell into the wrong hands, or was compromised, it could spell trouble. From photos to audio files, videos to your Facebook account, we hold a lot of sensitive data on our smartphones. And they can be easily stolen or lost.

At the same time, our phones are equipped with different features that can help keep things secure. If you combine these with a little diligence on your own part, you can ensure that your data is as safe as possible.

shutterstock_482236333 Source: Shutterstock/SFIO CRACHO

Use a lock function

Let’s start with the basics. If you’re not already using some form of lock screen security, then it doesn’t matter what type of measures you put in place if someone can physically access your data.

Fixing this is easier than ever thanks to fingerprint scanners now coming as standard on new devices but as a backup, you should complement it with a password or pattern.

That way if someone does get their hands on your phone, there’s less chance of them unlocking it.

Activate Find my Phone

Both iOS and Android have offered this feature for many years and it’s useful for two reasons. The first is knowing where your phone is. If you misplaced it, you can find its location or ring it, while the other allows you to wipe your phone remotely.

If you feel your phone has fallen into the wrong hands, this is a handy option to have as you can access Find My Phone through your web browser.

Use a password manager

Password managers are incredibly handy to have. Not only do they save you from having to remember numerous passwords – you only have to remember one master password which is much easier – the random passwords one can create are much stronger than the ones you come up with yourself.

Services like LastPass (iOS and Android) and 1Password (iOS and Android) have desktop, app and browser extensions for you to use so if you want to improve your account security, this is the way to do it.

Activate two-factor authentication

All major apps and services now offer two-factor authentication, so you’ve no excuse not to use it.

What it does is add an extra layer to the log-in process, requiring a randomly generated code on top of your username and password.

The two recommended apps to use are Authy (iOS and Android) or Google Authenticator (iOS and Android), neither of which require your phone to have an internet connection.

It’s recommended you avoid using SMS to receive codes as this can be easily hijacked. If you’re unsure which apps are covered, resources like 2FA let you search and see if your favourite apps are covered.

shutterstock_553139737 Source: Shutterstock/LOFTFLOW

Look at app permissions

Some apps require access to certain features on your phone – for example, Instagram requires access to your camera and photos as the app is designed around photography – but others might ask for permissions that aren’t entirely clear.

Even if they do, sometimes you might not want the app to have access to certain features so it’s best to go into your phone settings and manage permissions.

You can do this in Settings, usually found under Privacy (iOS) or Apps > specific app > Permissions (Android).

More importantly, think about the function of each app and why it would require a certain permission. WhatsApp would require access to contact details as it’s linked to your phone number or email, but such a permission wouldn’t be necessary if you were playing a game.

If you’re unsure, check the maker’s site to see if it explains why it asks for certain permissions. If it doesn’t, you probably should remove it.

Understand cookies

At this point, you’ve seen notifications for cookies anytime you’ve visited a site.

When one is created for a site you visit, it keeps track of your visit so the next time you return, it knows and can then adjust the content you see to reflect this.

Some people feel cookies can be intrusive so if you want, you can block them entirely by going into your browser’s privacy settings, or by using incognito mode the next time you’re in a browser.

Keep your phone and apps updated

Much noise surrounds any major iOS or Android update, but there are smaller updates released throughout the year.

It’s important to download these as each one includes important security fixes which keep your data safe.

Updating Android devices is a bit trickier as there are so many versions of it out there, but you should keep a note of what devices you’re using and regularly check whether updates have been released for them in Settings.

The same applies for apps so when an update arrives, it’s best to install it as soon as you can or activate auto-update. Likewise, only download apps from trusted locations like the App Store and Google Play.

Use secure messaging services

While it’s been a staple of messaging for many years, SMS is an insecure medium and you shouldn’t ever send any sensitive information through it.

Instead, you should rely on instant messaging apps like WhatsApp which offers end-to-end encryption for every message sent. Facebook Messenger also has a secret conversation option although it’s hidden away in the app (when you’re in a chat, tapping on the person’s name brings up options where secret conversations is).

If you want to go a step further, you could use a fully secure messaging app like or Signal (iOS and Android) or Threema (iOS and Android) which uses more stringent methods to keep your messages secure.

Should you use a VPN?

What a VPN does is instead of communicating directly with a site, it will route your traffic through one or more servers before connecting you.

That way you’re not directly connected to an end service. That’s why internet speeds tend to be a bit slower than normal because of the rerouted traffic.

While VPNs make it harder to be tracked, they don’t make you invisible and if someone really wanted to find you, they could. If you do opt for one, use a paid service instead of a free one as the latter normally track your data in some form and aren’t as fast.

If you’re concerned about your browsing habits being tracking, it’s usually better to browse in incognito mode. It doesn’t disguise you completely, but it prevents cookies from being stored.

Are you concerned about data security? Let us know in the comments.

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