How to Stay Safe in a Digital World by Keeping Your Phone Secure
It’s a big digital world out there, and it can be scary. But it doesn’t have to be. Arm yourself with the knowledge to protect yourself and be proactive. Online safety is in your hands.
Keeping Your Device Secure
Have you ever lost your phone or iPad? Whether it was just for five minutes or it completely disappeared, you know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. It’s not fun.
Fortunately, manufacturers have set-up their devices to keep your information safe, but it’s up to you to take the time to set up device security.
The most important thing you can do to help ensure your phone is secure is setting up a passcode. While the idea of having to enter a passcode seems like a bother, the physical reality is that we are talking fractions of a second to enter the password.
These days you must deliberately ignore several warnings to get out of setting a passcode. The system software tells you in no uncertain terms that you need to think hard a few times if you are going to refuse to set a passcode.
In the Passcode setup process, you will be prompted to set-up a six-digit numeric code. For iPhones, there is the option to switch to four-digits, or to use a custom numeric or alphanumeric code. Security researchers all say the longer the passcode, the better.
During the passcode setup, make sure you enable the option to erase the device after ten failed passcode attempts. Don’t let the fear of forgetting your passcode deter you from using one. After a week or less it becomes second nature.
In case you have any issues, there will be numerous times to remember your passcode as the software forces you to wait a minute, three minutes, fifteen minutes, an hour, etc. after erroneous entry before the phone erases itself.
Make Sure You Have Automatic Backups Turned On
Should the phone wipe itself, you will be able to restore it with an iCloud or iTunes backup. Which is why you need to have your automatic back-ups turned on.
If you have a generation 5S iPhone or later you can also set up Touch ID, or if you have an iPhone X, Face ID. Biometrics offer an alternative to inputting the passcode to unlock your device, log in to or purchase apps, and use Apple Pay. They are both easy to set up within the passcode section of Settings.
Passcodes and Remote Tracking Increase Security
Having a passcode on your phone significantly increases the security of your device. Not only does it help keep out people who shouldn’t be on your phone, but it also allows you a measure of control if it is ever lost or stolen.
In conjunction with securing your device with a passcode, many providers offer remote tracking that allows you to see the location of the device, remotely lock it, wipe it, and even post a phone number to assist with its recovery.
Apple has the “Find My Phone” app that makes it easy to track down if you have the setting turned on. To use it open Settings>AppleID>iCloud>Find My iPhone. Enable location tracking, as well as “Send Last Location.”
With these settings turned on, you can log into your iCloud account on a Mac or PC or use the “Find My Phone” app on another iPhone or iPad, to see where your device is on a map. If the battery died, it would provide the last location before the phone went offline, if it had an active internet connection.
Finding a Lost Phone
If you can’t locate the device, the following options are available:
Play a Sound
If the device is near you, but you don’t see it, you can have it play a sound to help you track it down.
If you can’t find the device, you can turn on Lost Mode and lock it with your passcode, as well as add a message on the lock screen with your phone number in case someone finds it.
If you believe your phone is irretrievable, you can erase it. Keep in mind if you do this you will not be able to track the phone. If you do find it, you can restore the phone with your last backup without any problem.
Google and Apple also offer two-factor authentication to boost security. With Two-Factor Authentication, after you sign in on a new device, you are required to enter a 6-digit code sent via text, an app, or email.
Two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of security in case someone is trying to log into your account from a different location.
Email Safety Best Practices
Hackers have discovered creative and deceptive ways to wreak havoc with email. Following simple guidelines to protect your account and private information will keep your account safe.
Protect Sensitive Information
First and foremost, never send sensitive information like credit card numbers, passwords, or your Social Security Number in an email, or attached in a document to an email.
This applies to tax documents, credit card authorization forms and the like. Use file encryption services or text using services that are encrypted (Apple Messages, Viber, WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram).
Choose a Trusted Email Provider
Use email providers that are reputable and have a good track record with security and encryption services, such as Google’s Gmail.
Securing Your Account
While using a unique, 12+ character password will help keep hackers out of your account, it is best to add another layer of security to your email with two-factor authentication, as discussed above.
Attachments and Links
Email attachments and links can leave you open to being hacked, or infect your computer with malware, spyware or viruses. Be cautious about opening attachments from others. It’s generally safest not to open any attachment you were not expecting, or that is out of the ordinary.
Never click on a link from a vendor or service that says you need to change account information. Go directly to the website, log into your account or find a customer service number to inquire if there are problems with your account.
In addition to these tips, be aware of telephone scams and pay attention to media reports of breaches in security for companies. Remember you are responsible for your online safety.
Have you ever had any scary security issues? Have you clicked on a link in an email you shouldn’t have, or answered a telephone call and given out private info? Tell us your story, good or bad, to help others learn from your experience.
Judi Jacobs is a lawyer-turned-tech nerd and the founder of The Tech Wizard. As a tech coach and consultant, Judi works with adults 50+ and small businesses to help make technology more user-friendly through small group classes and one-on-one training. Learn more at TheTechWizard.com.