New Smartphone for Christmas? Do These 6 Things Right Away
If Santa brought you a smartphone, here’s how to keep it — and the data it contains — safe and secure
If a new smartphone is on your gift list this year, it's important to know hackers or thieves may be waiting in the wings to steal it or its data.
Don't let this reality ruin your holiday cheer. There are ways to help prevent a sneaky Scrooge from swiping your device and your personal data. Here are six tips for securing your new smartphone.
1. If your phone has a fingerprint sensor, use it. Many smartphones now come with fingerprint sensors to maximize data security. The feature takes only a few minutes to set up, and it effectively limits a hacker’s chances of getting into your phone and accessing your data.
2. Use a passcode or gesture lock. Your new phone likely has a gesture or passcode lock to enhance security. On iPhones, for example, users can set a passcode of up to six digits. Android-based devices feature gesture locks, allowing you to unlock your smartphone based on how you slide your finger across the screen. In either case, the aim is the same: to thwart hackers trying to access data.
3. Keep the smartphone’s software updated. Companies often release security patches aimed at closing loopholes hackers exploit to gain access to operating systems and, from there, sensitive data. As you’re presented with smartphone operating system updates, take time to download and install them.
One caveat: Before you install an update, it’s wise to do a quick Internet search to make sure your smartphone provider did indeed launch an update. Hackers could try to fool you into downloading an “update” that’s really just malware.
4. Download only from reputable app stores. While it’s possible to download smartphone applications from third-party app stores, in general it’s not a good idea. Often such application marketplaces don’t apply the same vetting process to their programs, and those programs may contain malware. It’s safest to download apps from the application store that came with your smartphone.
5. Turn location-awareness on. Although you may not like the idea of turning it on, your device’s location-awareness feature will allow you to know where your device is if it’s stolen. And depending on the app you use, you can get directions to the phone’s location, remotely wipe out the data that’s on it and even trigger an alarm so the thief is left with a useless device ringing in his ear.
6. Add an “ICE” number to your contacts. This won't protect your phone from hackers, but it may save your life. Short for “In Case of Emergency,” those three letters tell emergency responders who to contact if you’ve been in an accident. Add ICE before your spouse’s name or friend’s name in your contact list — for example, "ICE John Smith."
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