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Security for Your Smartphone – Tips and Some Helpful Apps
Friday, November 23, 2018

Security for Your Smartphone – Tips and Some Helpful Apps

Our smartphones more and more turn into a virtual manifestation of our identity. A person can find out almost everything about you when your smartphone falls into their hands; what you have been up to this year (calendar), how many friends you have (contacts, messaging apps, social media sites), what you look like (gallery), how much money you have (online banking apps), or what you recently purchased (Amazon, eBay, other shopping apps). Just imagine how much damage can be done when someone else came to control that information.

We want to show you how you can protect yourself and your privacy with flawless smartphone security. For that purpose, we tested some security apps for you, and thought about the most important factors that will help you stay safe.

1. Use Screen Lock

We will start off this list with the most obvious, but at the same time most ignored tip. Lock your phone with your fingerprint, a password, PIN, or at least a swipe pattern. When someone steals your phone or tries to access it when you leave it unattended for a second, they will need some time to crack it. It gives you enough time to set in motion other security measures. But careful, greasy fingers can help people guess your pattern! And believe me it is impossible to keep your hands clean enough to not leave any traces on your screen.

Most new devices have a built-in fingerprint scanner and in some instances even a face recognition. These security features are the most secure and convenient ways to (un)lock your phone. A PIN is probably the best compromise between convenience and security. Studies suggest that most people check their phone over a hundred times a day. That means you are going to have to enter your PIN or password very often. Chances are, you will get annoyed with entering a whole password every time. PIN is much faster, and still way securer than using nothing at all. You could start off with a PIN, and maybe move up to a password, when you figure out that it works for you.

2. Keep Track of Your Apps and Permissions

When it comes to permissions, security strongly depends on what operating system you use. Starting with Android Marshmallow and on iOS you can choose which permissions you grant each app. Review which permissions you want to grant and be economical with it.

The huge problem on pre-Marshmallow operating systems is the “take it or leave it” approach. There is no possibility to revoke permissions, only on rooted smartphones. Rooting can cause security issues,too.

Do not install apps that ask for too many permissions. An example of an app that requires an extensive list of permissions: Pokémon GO. Why do they need access to your contacts and full access to your Google account? Well, they say the second one was a mistake and is fixed now. But the permissions list is still very long.

A useful app to keep track of which apps can access which feature is MyPermissions. It organizes your apps in different categories and shows you, for example, which app has access to your camera, or which app can access your contacts.

3. Use Encryption for…

… Your data in the cloud, for example Dropbox, OneDrive, GoogleDrive, or iCloud: You know which program to use for that, right? ;) Of course, Boxcryptor. Our encryption solution gives you great and security, with more and more convenient features. The latest addition: sharing files securely via link with Whisply, which can be used on its own, but is also fully integrated into Boxcryptor. Find out more about this great little security helper here.

… Communication: This year, the options of encrypted communications became much better, since WhatsApp introduced end-to-end-encryption. We provide you with a list of secure messaging apps in another blogpost of ours. For email we recommend ProtonMail to keep your conversations secure. ProtonMail is available on Android and iOS.

…Data on the phone: When you protect your phone with a PIN, someone could still connect it to a computer and get your data. But when you encrypt your phone, it is much harder to gain access to your data. On some devices, such as Samsung, you will not get around using a password, but the extra security is worth it. Some Marshmallow 6.0 devices and iPhones are shipped with mandatory encryption. Check if this is the case on your device. If not, or if your phone is running on Lollipop, encrypt it yourself. Find out how here.

4. Lock Especially Sensitive Apps and Folders

For an extra security layer it is advisable to lock certain apps, so you can only start them after you entered another PIN. If you are using an online banking app, you should definitely consider it. An app locker is also great to keep your image gallery, emails, or certain files private. Avast Mobile Security (Android) is a handy app for that purpose, and it offers many more great security features.

5. Get Anti-theft Software

Starting with iOS7, Apple allows users to remotely disable their iPhone in the case of theft with the Activation Lock. The launch of the feature caused a huge drop in iPhone thefts.

Android offers built in anti-theft protection starting with Android 5.1. For phones that run on an older operating system, we recommend using additional anti-theft apps. Avast Anti-Theft is free and it allow you to track, lock, or wipe data off your phone in case it is stolen. Additionally, you can take pictures, or listen in on the surroundings of your stolen phone, remotely. To annoy the thief a little, you can sound an alarm. With Avast, your phone counts as stolen as soon as the wrong password to unlock the phone has been entered three times.

6. Log out of Apps, Especially Before Using Public Wi-Fi

Always log out of apps, especially of ones in which you make transactions, such as Amazon, online banking, or PayPal. This becomes even more important when you plan to use public Wi-Fi. Avast started a little experiment at the Republican National Convention in 2016. They set up open Wi-Fi and checked, how many of the people using it were taking insecure actions. 1.2% out of 1200 users accessed an online banking app, 6.5% shopped on Amazon. 0.24% even visited pornography sites during the RNC and 5.1% used the public Wi-Fi to play Pokémon GO.

Most of those things you really should not do when you are in public Wi-Fi. But even if you are not, make sure to log out of your apps to be as secure as possible in a worst case scenario.

7. Switch of Bluetooth When You are not Using it

Bluetooth is an entry point to your device that is of course secured, but can still be vulnerable. Make sure to turn off Bluetooth when you are not using it, to avoid someone else gaining control over your phone by taking advantage of vulnerabilities.

If you follow these seven tips to protect your smartphone, you will make it very hard for anyone who gets his or her hands on your phone, to actually cause severe damage. There are many great security apps for your smartphone out there, so why not take advantage of that. Just as you would not tell a stranger on the street everything about yourself, it is a smart move not to make yourself and your virtual identity on your phone too accessible.

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