Top tech tricks to protect the valuable info on your smartphone

4 min

First appeared in Starts at 60 with St. George.

Remember when mobile telephones were brick-like devices that cost thousands of dollars and only had a battery life of 30 minutes?

It was only 33 years ago*, yet in that time those clunky phones have transformed into pocket-sized PCs that carry much of our personal and financial information.

If you are in doubt as to what could be learned about you by cracking your smartphone’s security code, consider the apps that you may have downloaded to your phone. For starters, mobile banking apps provide access to your accounts, ride-hailing apps often record your home address, travel apps detail your flight bookings and holiday plans, e-commerce apps contain your recent purchases, and location services reveal where you are or have been.

Then there’s the more detailed information about yourself, family, and friends that you may have innocently provided in emails and social media posts…

That’s why it’s important to take the security of your phone as seriously as you do that of your bank cards.

Luckily, there are six simple tech tricks that add an additional layer of protection for the valuable information it contains.

1. Only download apps from official app stores

Ignore emails or texts that encourage you to download apps as well as links in an email or a text that could lead you to a fake app store. These fake apps may be hiding a virus or malware such as a Trojan that’s designed to surreptitiously steal your information.

2. Use a complex, unique password for each app and site

Avoid using your mother’s maiden name or your pet’s name and instead opt to set up hard-to-guess passwords for each of your online accounts and apps. It’s important that you change them regularly so an online password manager helps you to remember your existing passwords and create new ones. This is usually done by integrating your web browser and recording the passwords as you type them.

There are also many free password managers available online to help with this.

3. Always lock your smart phone

Whether you use fingerprint recognition, a PIN, or something even more secure- locking your smartphone is important because it makes it less attractive to opportunistic thieves who wish to re-sell it. If someone’s able to access your phone, they’re also likely to have access to your apps and email, and the ability to reset your password, locking you out of your own email account. This potentially uncovers sufficient information to impersonate you.

It’s also wise to turn off your discoverable Bluetooth and location services when you’re not using them, to prevent your movements being tracked.

Many apps and sites now offer second-factor authentication (2FA), which means a user must input a second layer of information after their username and password to obtain access. It’s worth setting up 2FA on your most important accounts, such as your email, social media, and banking apps, if it’s available.

Some phones are also available with extra security features, such as iris scanners, facial and voice recognition, ‘shake pattern’ recognition (yes, it recognises how you shake your phone!), and fingerprint sensors. But while these may be convenient and give you additional peace of mind, they’re not currently considered replacements for vigilant use of more basic security functions.

4. Keep your software and apps up to date

Regularly check your phone’s app store for the icon that indicates your apps are due for an update, and make sure you update when prompted. It’s also worth following your phone-maker’s prompts to undertake operating system updates. This is important because updates usually include fixes for any new security holes that may’ve been identified by phone and app makers.

5. Add a keyword to your phone account

Mobile providers are usually happy help keep your data safe by adding a keyword to your account you quote when you call them, so consider setting one up.

6. Use your PC’s virus protector on your phone

Did you know that many of the software programs used to protect home computers from viruses and malware have an option that allows you to also use them on your phone? Check the terms of your existing anti-virus program to see if it covers mobile devices, or consider purchasing separate protection for your phone.


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Article prepared by Starts at 60, October 2017 and reused with permission. Information current as at 16 July 2018 and may contain material provided by third parties derived from sources believed to be accurate at its issue date. While such material is published with necessary permission, no company in the Westpac Group accepts any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of, or endorses any such material. Except where contrary to law, we intend by this notice to exclude liability for this material.