Phone security is more important than ever. Not only are there thieves, scammers and phishers out there trying to get your data, but if you’re in a country where being LGBT is illegal, you’ll definitely want to make sure your phone is secure to help avoid police entrapment. Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take. And no matter whether you’ve got an iPhone or use the Android OS, we’ve got you covered.
1. A strong passcode is the first line of defense when it comes to phone security
You most likely already use a passcode to get into your phone, whether it’s the iPhone’s Touch ID, a numeric passcode or the Android’s patterns. (If you don’t have a passcode on your phone stop what you’re doing and set that up right now.) But you’ll want to make sure you have a strong one.
Honestly, you’re going to want to use the numeric passcode (or, even an alpha numeric passcode). Other methods are more easily crackable, particularly with the Android patterns — your body’s natural oils will give the code away if you forget to wipe off your screen.
iPhones and Androids both default to a four-digit passcode, which is all right, but really, you’re going to want something stronger. Mathematically, a four-digit passcode only offers 10,000 possible combinations. Luckily, the iPhone lets you customize that. They not only offer a six-digit passcode, which provides a million combinations, but you can also create a custom numeric code, which can be however long you want it to be. And if that weren’t enough, you can create an alphanumeric code which includes uppercase, lowercase and symbols.
To change your iPhone’s passcode from four digits, it’s simple. Go to “Settings,” and choose “Touch ID & Passcode.” From there, tap “Change Passcode.” You’ll immediately be given the option to start with a six-digit code. Just tap “Passcode Options,” and you can choose to do a custom numeric code or a custom alphanumeric one. Enter it in, confirm it and you’ll be good to go.
Also, we recommend not using any number that has meaning to you — no addresses, phone numbers, not your social security number. Not only are those easier to guess if a potential hacker knows about you, but if they crack it anyway, you’ve just given them an extra bit of information about yourself.
2. Turn on two-factor authentication
Luckily, this is something that can be done on both iPhones and Androids. What two-factor authentication does is make it so you need two keys to get into your phone. While it might seem like a pain at first, the phone security benefit is worth it. You’ll find “two-factor authentication” in the settings, and can simply turn it on and follow the prompts.
Generally what will happen is you’ll enter in your passcode, and then receive either a phone call or a text message to a different account with a second code you’ll need to enter.
3. Only use apps from the official stores
This is more for Android users, as it’s more difficult to install third-party apps on an iPhone. But either way: Only install apps from the official Google Play store or Apple’s App Store. Both Google and Apple have stringent requirements, and you can be sure there won’t be any secret backdoors in apps you download. If you go to a non-official site, however, you don’t have that guarantee.
4. Encrypt your device
This one’s just for Android users (sorry, iPhone users — console yourselves with your complex passcodes). Android phones can be encrypted to help hide your information. Simply go to Settings, then Security, then Encrypt Device and follow the prompts.
5. Use a password manager
Who knew that Spaceballs would have an important phone security tip in it? As Darth Helmet says, 12345 “is the kind of thing an idiot would have on his luggage!” Don’t do a simple password like that — the more complex the better. But unfortunately, more complex passwords are hard to remember.
If you’re no good at mnemonic devices, you can get a mobile password management program. Androids have one built in — but if you have an iPhone, or simply don’t want to use the built-in function, you can download an app like LastPass or 1Password.