How to secure your smartphone

Six tips on how you can improve your mobile security practices.

Nearly two-thirds of American adults owned a smartphone in 20151 to make calls, text, browse the internet, check email and shop. These activities can put your privacy at risk, which can lead to identity theft and fraud. Learning the basics of mobile device security can help keep your personal and sensitive information safe.

Here are six security tips to help you learn how to secure your smartphone:

1

Lock your phone

Set your phone’s security to lock your screen after five minutes or less of inactivity. It’s a simple way to prevent thieves from accessing your information if you leave your phone unattended. Some phones offer more complex security measures such as fingerprint ID, passwords or lock patterns. Experiment with them to find which is right for you.

2

Use a “find your phone” app

Enable or install an app that allows you to remotely find your phone—from a computer, tablet or other phone—if you lose it. In instances where your phone may be unrecoverable, many of these apps let you send remote commands to erase your phones data.

3

Only download from official sources

Malware, software used for illegal activity, can steal data directly from your phone. So only download apps that come from a reputable source and never download attachments from unknown sources in emails, unfamiliar sites or unrecognized pop-up windows. For instance, a banking app should come from the bank itself or from an official app store. Bank of America customers can use the official Bank of America Mobile Banking app,2 to check balances, pay bills and deposit checks.

4

Be cautious about unknown connections

When possible, only connect to known, trusted Wi-Fi networks and Bluetooth devices. In your phone’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings, enable it to only connect automatically to networks and devices you’ve already approved. This helps prevent your phone from transmitting information without your knowledge.

5

Keep your operating system up to date

Hackers are constantly searching for weaknesses in operating systems, and software manufacturers are regularly releasing updates to protect against mobile security threats. It’s critical you regularly check for and download those patches. Not doing so can leave your information vulnerable to criminals. The easiest way to do this is to enable automatic updates in your settings.

While it may be tempting to jailbreak your operating system so you can access apps not approved by your phone’s manufacturer, it’s not a good idea. Doing so will strip away your phone’s built-in security features, leaving your private information vulnerable.

6

Don’t make your personal info easy to find

Avoid storing, or letting your phone “remember,” personal data such as credit card information, Social Security numbers, passwords or other sensitive information directly on your phone. The convenience of storing this information in a notes app may be tempting, but it’s an easy target if your phone falls into the wrong hands.

People are using smartphones for a greater number of reasons—from mobile banking to social sharing—every day. As their use continues to grow, the need for safety and smartphone security is more important than ever. While these tips can’t protect you from everything, they are a good start on helping you learn how to keep your smartphone secure.

  1. Pew, 2015
  2. Mobile Banking requires enrollment through the Mobile Banking app, Mobile website or Online Banking. Enrollment through the Mobile Banking app is not available on all devices. View the Online Banking Service Agreement for more information. Data connection required. Wireless carrier fees may apply. The Mobile Banking app is available on iPad, iPhone, Android and Windows 10 (except Xbox) devices. Not all Mobile Banking app features are available on all devices.
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The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial or investment advice. Bank of America and/or its affiliates, and Khan Academy, assume no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional when making decisions regarding your financial or investment options.

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