two female friends in sunglasses sit together in a van and sunshine while practicing phone security best practices from Gate City Bank

7 Phone Security Best Practices to Boost Data Privacy

When it comes to protecting your sensitive information from cybercriminals, making the right call is the number one priority. Check out these seven easy phone security tips for better data privacy!

We use smartphones for everything these days – scrolling on social media, managing bank accounts, paying for groceries, binge watching our favorite TV shows, navigating the morning commute, jotting down work notes, taking selfies while away on vacation – you name it, the list goes on and on. That’s a lot of sensitive personal information neatly stored in one easy place. Cybercriminals certainly think so!

But what can hackers and fraudsters really do with your personal information? Unfortunately, the questions are framed around what can’t they do with it. For starters, by gaining access to your mobile device, cybercriminals can easily assume your identity, steal your hard-earned money, humiliate you, track your whereabouts, infiltrate your workplace and so much more.

Let’s face it: there’s no way most of us will give up the sort of convenience that fits in the palm of your hand for a rare instance of a hack – it’s just human nature. That’s why we encourage you to protect your sensitive information from bad actors. Speaking of scrolling, keep going to learn more!

  1. You Shall Not Pass!

    This tip is an oldie but a goodie: When you’re not using your phone, make sure cybercriminals aren’t either. As a first line of defense, always keep your device automatically locked with a strong passcode. And if it has Touch ID or facial recognition features, back them up with a unique PIN or complex pattern. (Note: A passcode with six characters instead of four will enhance your security immensely.)

    If your phone is ever lost or stolen, or if there’s a remote attempt to hack it, these safeguards (which essentially serve as a padlock for your sensitive information) will help prevent others from accessing your data. It may seem like a pain to enter a passcode every time you open your phone, but when you think about all the sensitive data on the line, it’s worth it to sacrifice the swipe.

    While we’re on the topic of passcodes and other phone-lock features, it’s also worth noting that you should use strong passwords for the different accounts you access through your phone. Change your passwords regularly and make them tough to guess with a mix of numbers, uppercase/lowercase letters and special characters. Don’t write them down, and don’t repurpose them for multiple accounts.

    Additionally, using two-factor authentication to access and protect key accounts is a smart move because it requires two distinct forms of identification in order to access something. This is an added layer of security, making it even harder for cybercriminals to access your private information.

Pro Tip:

When you hold your phone screen up to the sun, chances are you’ll see your finger smudges matching your passcode or pattern. Criminals will see this, too! Be sure to clean your screen often.

  1. Don’t Overshare.

    Whether you’re using your phone to post on social media, download an app, sign up for a service or something similar, be mindful of how much personal information you share (potentially for the whole world to see). Always research the source to see if it’s secure and be careful of where you store personal information. Also, try not to let apps track your location when you’re not using them.

    And remember: While a request may look legit, it could be a scam. Get a text message from your bank? Ope! They may not send text messages. Received an unsolicited call from a business you purchased from long ago? Make sure who you’re speaking with actually represents the organization. Spot an odd link or misspelled words in an email? Don’t click! The goal is to be cautious – and safe rather than sorry.

    Additionally, don’t set up your device to automatically log in to accounts. While it may be convenient to do so, it also makes things convenient for criminals. Log out immediately after using accounts, especially when it comes to mobile banking and online shopping. (Psst. With mobile banking, it helps to choose a bank that gives you the secure ability to turn your debit card on and off whenever you need to.)

  2. Back That Device Up.

    If your phone is lost, stolen or damaged, regularly backing up your data with cloud technology or external hard drives takes out some of the sting. Whether it’s priceless family photos, important work documents, years’ worth of contacts or anything in between, you can’t recover your device’s contents if they’re not also stored elsewhere. A good practice is to back up your data once a day. Make it a habit!

    To this same end, if your device goes missing, it helps to have the capability to remotely lock and wipe your data. There are a number of vendors that make this possible. When in doubt, always be prepared.

  3. Download From Trusted Sources.

    When downloading apps – and any other assets for that matter – err on the side of using official stores, such as Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Regardless, it’s important to do your best to make sure what you’re downloading is an official offering from an organization. Suspicious third-party app providers are more likely to be carriers of malware and other potentially harmful threats served up by cybercriminals.

    For good measure, it also helps to check reviews, comments and ratings for certain apps, which helps give you an additional sense of if they’re genuine. Be especially cautious with unvetted financial apps.

  4. Keep Your Operating System Current.

    When your phone lets you know its operating system needs to be updated, consider doing so right away. Even better, set your system to auto-update each time. These updates often mitigate system bugs, viruses or other vulnerabilities by implementing crucial security fixes (also referred to as “patches.”) Make sure you’re connected to a trusted Wi-Fi source when making these updates.

    It’s also important to manage your privacy settings to your comfort level. You should feel empowered to limit what information your mobile apps can access! After all, it’s your data.

  5. Be Careful With Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Charging.

    Speaking of Wi-Fi, do your best to avoid free public hotspot internet connections, especially when it comes to banking or making purchases. These networks, while convenient, can sometimes be ideal hangouts for cybercriminals looking to access your files or monitor your activity. If you must connect to public Wi-Fi, consider also using a virtual private network (VPN) service, which encrypts your data.

    When you’re done using Wi-Fi, turn it off immediately. The same goes for your device’s Bluetooth function, which can be another gateway for fraudsters. Even public charging stations can be dangerous, with hackers setting up fake units to glean your data. Do your best to balance convenience with security.

  6. Give Malware the Boot.

    Malware danger is real. It can track you, share your personal data and slow down your phone. That’s why it pays to install anti-malware software, which has shown to enhance security. Same as how you don’t want your computer to run without an antivirus tool, it’s important to make sure your mobile device is protected. Firewall apps are also helpful in boosting your device’s built-in security features.

Call to Action: Increase Your Phone Security Today.

When it comes to protecting your personal information, it’s crucial to take phone security seriously. By following the best practices we’ve outlined above, you’ll be better prepared to defend your data, For a Better Way of Life.®

Related to This Article

father fishes with child in the sunshine and laughs as he avoids fraud attempts with tips from gate city bank

Don’t Get Snagged With Phishing

If an email, text or phone call requesting sensitive personal information ever feels off, it’s important to follow that gut feeling. It could be a phishing attempt! Check out our four tips for avoiding this common type of fraud.

two girls sit in the sunshine outside while taking a selfie after reading a helpful cybersecurity article from gate city bank

5 Ways to Stay Cyber-Secure on Social Media

Want to keep safe and cyber-secure when navigating the social media world? We’ve assembled some helpful tips!

mother and young child look at a computer to follow Gate City Bank tips on how to stay protected from fraudster criminals

4 Ways to Prevent a Total Account Takeover

Don’t let criminals gain access to your finances and sensitive personal information! Follow these helpful tips to keep your accounts safe.