That little handheld computer you carry with you everywhere, aka your smartphone, likely contains all sorts of personal information. From emails and text messages to bank account and credit card numbers, there’s plenty of data on these devices that you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to secure your smartphone to keep your information private — and give you better peace of mind:
1. Use Caller ID to Block Your Phone Number
Depending on the circumstance, there may be times when you want to keep your phone number private when making a call. One good example might be when you call a retailer to inquire about pricing. In this instance, it makes sense that you wouldn’t want the business or company to see — and potentially jot down — your phone number on caller ID.
To prevent the business or company from calling you back — either once or several times — T-Mobile offers simple and easy advice on how to block a number. Simply dial *67 and then the phone number you wish to call. When the recipient receives your call, his or her caller ID will display “private” or “anonymous,” helping to secure your identity.
It’s important to note this service works when calling a business or an individual, but not for any toll-free numbers or emergency services.
2. Set Up and Use a PIN
You might find it taxing to enter a passcode every time you receive a text or want to check your email. Believe me — it can get a little annoying. But keep this in mind: If your smartphone falls into the wrong hands — and you haven’t set up a simple, four-digit passcode — criminals can easily tap a button or two to unlock your smartphone and access your information.
Of course, setting up a passcode can prevent this from ever happening. If you’re an iPhone owner, tap your Settings app and then scroll down until you see “Touch ID and Passcode.” From there, you can create a passcode — some newer iPhone models allow you to use your fingerprint in lieu of a passcode. However, make sure your passcode is not only easy to remember but also difficult for anyone to figure out; for example, don’t use “1234” or “0000.”
Meantime, Android users can access their Settings app and then click “Lock Screen” to set up a pattern, password or PIN.
3. Install Tracking Apps
There are a slew of tracking apps to find your misplaced or stolen smartphone. If you believe your AWOL iPhone is within the vicinity in which it went missing, you’ll hear an alert emitting from it — this system will work even if your smartphone is in silent mode — if you’ve already downloaded and opened the Find My iPhone app.
Meantime, if you believe your iPhone was stolen and is now long gone, you can attempt to track it down by also using the Find My iPhone app, which employs GPS coordinates. Simply log into the app from any other device — someone else’s iPhone, or your tablet or laptop — and use the tracking app to find it.
You can also use this tracking app to wipe proprietary data and information from your smartphone, including bank account information, credit card numbers and more. To enable Find My iPhone, perform the following steps:
- Launch the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
- Tap your Apple ID at the top of the screen.
- Tap iCloud.
- Scroll down and tap “Find My iPhone.”
- Tap the switch to enable it.
For Android users, use the Android Device Manager to enable tracking.
4. Utilize Top-Level Encryption
One effective way to protect your smartphone data from prying eyes is by utilizing hardware-level encryption. Android smartphones on the Marshmallow operating system now automatically encrypt your data, and seemingly every new iPhone offers advanced encryption protection.
But if it has been some time since you’ve upgraded your smartphone, you may wish to invest in a newer model that offers state-of-the-art encryption. Gadgethacks.com has highlighted four smartphones that it deems best for privacy and security. Moreover, each model uses one of two basic types of encryption: either file-based or full disk.
For example, the iPhone 7 uses a dedicated hardware chip to enable encryption, whereas the highlighted Android smartphones on the list all use a software-based encryption engine.