Today I’m off to Seattle with Microsoft for the #ChampionsSummit (feel free to follow the hashtag to see what I’m up to!) and want to introduce Joe Siegrist, CEO and co-founder of LastPass, who is here to share seven tips for securing your smartphone.
By Joe Siegrist, CEO and co-founder of LastPass
For most of us in the modern world, our phones are the key to our digital and physical lives, yet we tend to fall short when it comes to securing this valuable piece of technology. You might use a case to protect it from a fall, but how can you make sure all that personal information is safe in the event that your phone goes missing or winds up in the wrong hands?
- Encrypt Your Phone – Given the amount of personal and professional information on your phone, it’s recommended that you use encryption to scramble the data with a special cryptographic key. Even if someone tries to pull the data off the phone (by plugging it into a computer via the USB port, for example) the data is useless without the encryption key. You can also set up the encrypted phone to self-destruct after so many failed attempts to access the data.
- Secure Your Phone with a Passcode and Set a Timeout – While it may seem obvious, locking your phone with a password or pin is the first step in protecting your information. In the event that someone gains physical access to your phone, a passcode or pin locks them out from actually accessing anything. You should be able to set up a 4-digit PIN, Pattern or even a full passcode, which is most secure. After you set the screen lock on your device, set a timer so that you’re prompted to enter the PIN or passcode after a period of inactivity, preferably a short one.
- Create Strong Passwords – Securing the information that you send and receive on your phone is equally as important as preventing physical access to it. Create a unique, strong and different password for every single web service, app and account you use. As a rule of thumb, a strong password should contain no fewer than 12 characters and should be an arbitrary mix of numbers, letters and symbols. Using a password manager like LastPass that works not only on mobile but on your desktop and laptop, too, will help you create, remember and use strong passwords for every account across every device.
- Turn on Two-Factor Authentication – Two-factor authentication requires not only a password and username, but also something that only that user has access to, like a one-time code that gets sent to your phone, or your fingerprint. You should enable two-factor authentication for individual apps, like your email account or your password manager, as well as set it up to prompt you when taking certain actions on your smartphone.
- Stick to Trusted Apps – The app store is brimming with thousands of apps vying for your download. If you are not familiar with the maker of an app, it’s wise to research the company and do a quick scan of the reviews to note any inconsistencies or negative comments. Raise a red flag if you can’t verify the author of an app or if you are sent an app download outside of the app store. Additionally, if the permissions that the app requests seem too intrusive, it’s probably best to search for a different app. You should regularly review your installed apps and remove those you no longer use to avoid any unnecessary risks.
- Always Install Updates – Although it often feels like it, operating systems and apps installed on your smartphones and tablets don’t just push out updates to inconvenience you (and remind you that you have no available storage on your phone). Companies are constantly updating their software with important patches for vulnerabilities, fixes for bugs and overall stability and performance improvements. It’s crucial to install those updates as soon as you’re prompted so that you’re not risking your privacy or personal information.
- Be Cautious Using Open WiFi – It’s probably unrealistic that you’ll be able to completely avoid open WiFi. But if you’re going to connect to WiFi on your phone, remember to turn it off when it’s not in use so that you don’t accidentally connect to any available network in your vicinity. Avoid doing anything sensitive on open WiFi like accessing your bank account –and if you must, then change your passwords when you’re back on a trusted connection. If you frequently use public WiFi, you may want to pay for a VPN. Anyone in the local area will only be able to see that you’re connected to the VPN – not what you’re doing on it.
We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to follow these guidelines on how to secure your smartphone. Should your phone ever fall into the wrong hands, you’ll be glad you took a few minutes to safeguard the personal information on your phone.
Share in the comments below any other favorite mobile security tips!
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