How to easily secure your smartphone


Most people these days have a smartphone. These phones are actually no longer just mobile phones, in reality they are powerful mobile computers with several GB RAM, multicore CPUs and many GB storage. Despite these characteristics which bring them closer to computers than to phones, most of their users don’t consider security and privacy in the way they should do with their personal mobile computers. Actually, users are split in two categories: those who care about security and privacy and those who don’t. The advices below are meant to address both categories and they are sorted according to the difficulty to be implemented.

  1. Activate a screen lock

A screen lock is good in case you lose your smartphone or it gets stolen, but also helps prevent somebody to access your data without permission.

  • Set a PIN of min 6 characters.

Don’t enable the minimum PIN of 4 characters because it is too easy to guess and to watch over the shoulder. If your device doesn’t have the functionality of a PIN with at least 6 characters, then skip to the next step.

  • Biometrics

Modern smartphones have these days a form of fingerprint scanner and some even retina scanner. Even if there has been written a lot about attempts to trick the sensor, biometric scanners are better than a pin or password because they allow to really everyone to have a good security without impacting the usability too much.

  • Password

Same as on the PC, a password is the hardest to bypass. Of course, for that, it has to be a good password, ideally a combination of small and capital letters, numbers and characters.

Last but not least, don’t forget that even the simplest password is better than no password.

  • Install an antivirus program

You need an antivirus program to have your peace of mind that you have the minimum protection. They detect threats like spyware, adware, ransomware and sometimes even against certain types of phishing emails. There is absolutely no excuse to not install an antivirus product since all established security producers and not only have a free version available. Just search in your app store for “antivirus” or “security” and you’ll have plenty of apps to chose from. Always have a look at the installation base and user comments.

PS: You will not find for Apple an antivirus, but you can still install a dedicated security solution which will increase your security.

  • Use Encryption

All modern smart phones come with the possibility to encrypt the phone and the SD Card. Encryption is needed in order to prevent someone to look at your data if your phone is stolen and the card is read in another phone.

  • Activate “Find my phone”

This feature requires a network connection and enables a service running on your phone to transmit its exact location. Various versions of it enables it to make pictures with the front and end cameras and even register voice and send it to the cloud service. This way it might help the rightful owner to find his device easier.

Hint: this feature can be found in the “Security” area.

  • Activate remote features like “lock” and “wipe”

“Lock” is designed to prevent anyone from using your device if you ever lose it. “Wipe” or “Erase” give you the peace of mind when you’re worried that your device has fallen into the wrong hands: you can initiate a remote wipe to delete your personal data from the device. The device may remain locked while the data is wiped securely.

Note that these features are not available on every Android version. Nevertheless, almost all security products for Android have these features built-in.

  • Enable automatic backup

Mobile devices may get stolen or lost (and then you “Lock” and “Wipe” them) or may get damaged. In such cases, it is better to have all your data (settings, accounts, documents, pictures) saved in a secure location from where you can restore them at any time in their original place. Best of all, this feature comes completely free from Google and they get backup also from almost every single OEM vendor.

  • Don’t install just any app

There are thousands of app stores and millions of apps out there. As simple rules that massively increase your security and privacy, please consider the following:

  • Install only apps with a lot of existing users and positives reviews
    • Don’t install apps from app stores that you don’t know and trust. Don’t enable the installation of apps from SD card or from other foreign stores.
    • Be suspicious if an app requires permissions it shouldn’t need. Use your common sense and stop the installation if you see that, for example, a game needs access to your photos, emails, text messages and so on.
  • Don’t be an easy prey for the web threats

Even if you’re on a mobile device, your data is as vulnerable as it is on any other device.

Ideally, you should get rid of those nerving ads which can easily turn into malware. There are plenty of tools out there, including also browsers with anti-ads technologies built in. Fortunately, by default almost all browser block popups and have also anti-phishing web filters. Additionally, the ads consume a lot of bandwidth and this matters when you’re on a data plan.

All these and many more topics are in the free eBook "Improve your security" available here:

About the Author

Sorin Mustaca, (ISC)2 CSSLP, CompTIA Security+ and Project+, is working since 2000 in the IT Security industry and until 2014 for Avira as Product Manager, where he was responsible for the known products used by over 100 million users world-wide. Serving the security needs of so many different users made him think that there are other ways of to help the users: teachning them about security.

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