Mobile Monday: Cell Phone Security

Secure Cell Phone

Cell phones have taken an increasingly important role in people’s lives since they first started to see widespread adoption in the ‘90s. With the rise of the smartphone a decade ago, that process has accelerated, to the point that for many of us, our cell phones are vitally important tools for certain aspects of our lives. They’re the keeper of our calendar, our contacts, our family photos, they’re our means of communication with friends and family, how we find our way in a new place, and so much more. As our phones have taken on greater importance, the need to secure them has also grown. That’s why today’s post will be focusing on ways to secure your cell phone and its data.

Keep Your Phone Backed Up

The first step to securing your cell phone is keeping your data backed up. That may seem odd at first, since we don’t normally think of backups as a security feature, but think of it this way: what’s the most important thing on your phone? It’s the data, right? When we panic over a lost phone, what we’re really upset about, usually, is all the stuff we had stored on it. By maintaining regular backups of your phone’s data, you’re keeping it secure, so that it’s safe even if you lose your phone.

There are a variety of ways to keep your cell phone’s data backed up. You can read more about them in our previous posts on backing up your Android and iPhone data.

Enable Passcode Locks

Your first and most important line of defense when it comes to cell phone security is a solid passcode lock. With this feature enabled, it’s all but impossible for someone to access your phone without your permission. If you aren’t currently using a passcode, you should definitely consider starting. You’ve got a few options when it comes to passcodes. The default for both Android and iPhone is a simple 4-digit code. If you choose to stick with that, you should pick a code that’s easy to remember, but difficult for others to guess. Birthdays and anniversaries should be avoided, for example. If you’re worried that a 4-digit code isn’t secure enough, though, there are ways to make your passcode more secure than that. On both iPhones and Android phones, you have the option of enabling a 6-digit passcode, or using a password to unlock your phone. Android phones also give you the option of unlocking your phone by tracing a specific pattern on a series of dots on the phone’s lock screen. If you choose to go this route, the same rules apply: pick a pattern that’s not easy to guess, but that you aren’t likely to forget.

In addition to passcodes, an increasing number of cell phones include some biometric security features. Android phones and iPhones have included fingerprint reading technology for a few years now, and face recognition technology is available on several Android models and the iPhone X. These features are great because they allow you to unlock your phone quickly and easily, but still provide the same level of security as a passcode lock.

Find, Lock, or Wipe Your Phone Remotely

Another important security measure you can take with your cell phone is making sure that you have the ability to find, lock, or wipe your phone in the event that it is lost or stolen. Fortunately, iPhones and Android phones both have tools that make this process fairly easy. If you have an iPhone, Apple’s Find My iPhone service enables you to see your phone’s location on a map and play a sound from the phone’s speakers to help you find it. You can also lock the phone down so it can’t be access (if you don’t already have a passcode enabled), and display a message on the phone’s screen with contact information so someone who finds it can get in touch with you. The tool also lets you wipe the phone remotely if you believe it’s been stolen and unlikely to be recovered.

To do all this, you need to make sure that your phone is signed into your iCloud account and Find My iPhone is turned on. To check this, get into the Settings app, tap your name at the top of the screen, then tap iCloud. Scroll down until you see Find My iPhone, and make sure it’s turned on. Then, when you lose your phone, head to iCloud.com on a browser, sign in, and click “Find My iPhone,” and you should see your phone’s location on a map, along with options for playing sounds, sending messages, locking the phone, or wiping it. Be aware, though, that once you wipe your phone this way, it will disappear from your device list and you won’t be able to find it anymore.

If you have an Android phone, Google offers a tool with basically the same options as Apple’s Find My iPhone. Before you can use it, you need to make sure that your phone is set up correctly. In your Settings app, go to Security & Location, tap Location and make sure that it’s turned on. Next, go back to Security & Location and tap Find My Device. Make sure the Remotely locate my device and Allow remote lock and erase options are turned on. You’ll also need to make sure that your phone is visible in Google Play, but you’ll have to do that from the web. Head over to your Google Play settings page and select Visibility, then select your device to make sure it’s visible.

Once you’ve done all that, you can locate your phone by going to android.com/find and signing in. From there, you can see your phone’s location, lock your phone, display a callback number and a custom message on the screen, and remotely erase your phone. As with Apple’s Find My iPhone tool, you should know that wiping your phone will remove it from your Android device list, so that you won’t be able to find it anymore.

Don’t Go To Dangerous Places!

When Apple first introduced their Find My iPhone feature a few years ago, there were several stories in the news about people who used it to track down stolen phones, sometimes going so far as to visit the thieves at their homes to get the stolen phones back. While stories like that can be fun to read, it’s important to understand that this is a really bad idea. If you know your phone has been stolen (as opposed to simply misplaced) and you’ve got access to its location, going after it yourself could get you into a potentially dangerous situation. The smart thing to do is lock the phone, have it display information about how to get it back to you, and then pass along its location to the authorities.

At Phone Medics + PC, we want to make sure you have the tools you need to keep your phone safe and secure. If you need help navigating the features and settings you need to keep your phone secure, you can contact us, or bring your phone to our facility at 91 E. Merritt Island Causeway in Merritt Island, where our trained professionals will be happy to help you out.