The implications of a lost cell phone go much deeper than the inconvenience (and expense) of replacing that brand-new iPhone 5. Unless you’ve been careful, you could lose inestimable sensitive information — from contact info to emails, passwords, access to all your social networking sites and even financial information.
Intelligent identity thieves can take the information they’ll gain from your cell phone and run with it to the point of ruining you financially and causing problems that could take years to repair. Taking steps to avoid the loss of your phone and the wealth of information it holds is one of the most valuable steps you can take to protect your identity.
Protect Your Privacy
Privacy protection isn’t just for those with something to hide. If you’re concerned about the privacy of messages you send and calls you place (or even the information that applications gather from your personal information) there are steps you can take to make sure that information remains private. Apps like ChatSecure ensure that messages you send on Facebook Messenger or similar messaging services remain private, but both the message sender and recipient must install the app for it to remain effective. For less-stringent protection of your web browsing, you can use both Google Chrome or Safari web browsers in their private browsing modes to automatically delete your history and clear cookies once you exit.
Watch Out for Unsecured Networks
That free coffee-shop wireless might not be such a good deal if you transmit sensitive information over a public network signal. When you’re using an unsecured network, whether you’re on your smart phone or laptop. Pay attention to the types of information you’re typing, and treat it as though every keystroke is being logged. To be safest, set up software like Private WiFi, which encrypts your Internet connection completely. Set your network settings so your phone does not automatically connect to available networks and turn your phone’s Wi-Fi off unless you’re actually using it.
Take Advantage of Your Provider’s Security Measures
Apple offers built-in security measures, including requiring you to log in to your account before accessing files or downloading new data. Android devices offer similar plans. Some individual service providers provide free versions of antivirus and privacy software, such as T-Mobile’s Lookout Security & Antivirus program available on Google Play.
Be Aware of the Permissions you Allow
When you download an app to your smartphone, it will ask you about a list of permissions, from sharing your location to accessing your Facebook information and friends list. Don’t just agree to whatever the app suggests. In many cases, disallowing apps to access certain areas of your phone can actually cause them to run more efficiently while also protecting your information from those who don’t need it.
Install Security Apps
Some apps can actually make keeping up with your phone’s security easier by monitoring both app permissions and watching for viruses or intruder threats. The newly released Lookout App protects phones from malware, blocks malicious websites and scans apps for safety before you download them. The basic version of Lookout is available free on most new smartphones and tablets. Other apps like iHound can activate your phone’s GPS if stolen. It also works for iPads, iPods and other Apple devices.