Five Tips for Safeguarding Your Personal Data On Your Mobile Device

Imagine how you’d feel if you lost your wallet. Scary thought, right? Now imagine if you lost your smartphone or tablet. That’s not only an expensive piece of hardware gone missing, but also a mountain of personal data: contacts (both business and personal), appointment calendars, photos, memos, and most likely your Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Of course, that data can be at risk even if you keep your device tucked safely in a pocket or purse. It’s all about how you manage it. Thankfully, it’s not hard to lock down, protect, and even back up your most prized information. Here’s everything you need to know.

1. Password-protect your device

You lock your car, your house, your safe. It only makes sense, then, to lock your smartphone or tablet as well. By doing so, no unauthorized person can gain access without the proper password.

For Android devices, launch the Settings app, then tap Location & Security, Set up screen lock. Here you’ll see a choice of security options: password, numeric PIN, or pattern. (This last lets you trace a pattern to unlock the screen.) Choose one, then follow the prompts to configure it.

For iOS devices, tap Settings, General, Passcode Lock. The default lock option is a four-digit numeric password, but if you switch Simple Passcode to Off, you can upgrade your protection with any alphanumeric password you want. Either way, tap Turn Passcode On, then follow the prompts.

2. Password-protect your passwords (and other private data)

Many users make the mistake of storing passwords and other sensitive info in memos and address books, where prying eyes can find them with just a few taps.

Instead, turn your mobile device into a mobile vault by installing a password manager, an app that secures and encrypts everything you want to keep private: serial numbers, insurance information, bank-account data, even the combination of your gym lock. Oh, and passwords, of course, along with usernames and other information for important websites.

Best of all, you need to remember only one password — for the app itself — to access all your other passwords. Make it a strong one. (No, “123456” is not good.)

3. Learn how to remote-lock and remote-wipe your device

Thanks to various apps and services, a lost or stolen device can be locked or even erased from afar. That can really save your bacon, especially if you’ve decided that a lock-screen password isn’t worth the hassle.

Before you can rest easy, however, make sure you’ve installed any apps that need installing and configured any services that need configuring. In other words, this remote safety net isn’t set up right out of the box, so take the time to make it happen. And once you’ve prepped the device, make sure to bookmark the website used to remotely connect to it, and make a note of the password — something you could easily forget if you’re frantic about your missing device.

4. Back up your photos

Is your smartphone pulling double duty as your camera? That’s a common practice now that phones can capture sharp, multi-megapixel snapshots. The question is, how can you preserve those photos for posterity when they’re stored on a device that can be lost, stolen, or broken?

Simple: copy them to a secondary location. For example, every few weeks you could manually copy your photo library to your computer’s hard drive. Even better, enable any cloud-backup options built into the phone’s operating system, or install an app that will automatically upload photos to a secure online server — where they can be viewed in your Web browser and/or restored on a new device.

5. Practice safe browsing

To steer clear of phishing attempts and reduce the risk of a browser exploit compromising your personal data (and/or exposing your device to malware), don’t tap links embedded in email messages. Likewise, when you visit any mobile website that involves shopping or banking, make sure the URL starts with “https,” not just “http.” The former promises security; the latter, not so much.

Also, be sure to install a safe-browsing utility that helps ensure secure Web navigation. For example, when you run a Web search, you’ll see at-a-glance which links are safe to tap and which are known to be risky.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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