9 WISE Tips on How to Use Your Smartphones Securely!

by Michael Argast, TELUS  

Today, people use smartphones for everything – banking, social networks, games and shopping lists. It is critical to protect your devices which when lost or stolen can provide a wealth of information to identity thieves or those who would do us harm. Here are a few quick tips from TELUS on how to use these devices securely.

1. Choose a strong password Many people use a weak password, or no password at all, on their smartphones. Stealing your smartphone yields data from your address books to email, but also provides unfettered access to any commonly used apps including your social networks, banking sites and more. A thief can not only steal your information but also impersonate you, posing a risk to your friends and family. Always use a strong, complex password and ensure that your device auto-locks after a short period of time. * A tip for parents – ensure that your children understand that passwords are not to be shared – while parents have a good reason to know their children’s passwords, others do not.

2. List your emergency contacts Take advantage of favourite lists to ensure that emergency contacts are easily reachable, on your phone and the phones of your children. Make sure your kids phones have your number and the number of another trusted adult if they can’t reach you in case of an emergency. You can also put an alternate number on your lockscreen so that if you misplace your phone, it is easy for someone to locate you and return it.

3. Install or activate remote lock/wipe/locate software on your phone Most current phone software supports features that enable you to easily, and remotely, lock, locate and delete/wipe your phone if lost or stolen. While many people think it won’t happen to them, the unfortunate truth is that one in three smartphone owners will lose or misplace a phone this year. Criminals are increasingly targeting valuable phones for theft. Making sure that your phone is easy to wipe ensures that you only lose your phone and not your identity.

4. Turn off geotagging/location awareness where not needed Geotagging uses the GPS on your phone to insert location information into photos or other content you share on social networks and with friends. Turning on and off geotagging only takes a few taps of the finger. Many apps and games will continue tracking your location even when not in use, leaking your whereabouts whether you want them to or not. Geotagged photos can reveal where you live or where your children are unintentionally – turning the tagging feature off on your camera when not necessary helps keep your location private.

5. Be cautious in using wi-fi Many applications on your phone will send passwords and sensitive information in the clear, and on wi-fi networks, anyone with a little expertise can pick that information right off the air. Make sure you don’t share personal or private information over public wi-fi networks. Check your phone settings to ensure that it doesn’t connect to wi-fi networks automatically, and turn off wi-fi on your phone when not needed. Many smartphones will automatically join networks without you being aware of it, leaking information accidentally. Restricting this will save your data and also save your battery. * Pro-tip – consider using a VPN (virtual private network) client on your phone, which will ensure that your communications never cross a wi-fi network in the clear.

6. Choose applications carefully Often free applications pay for themselves with ads, or sometimes even by grabbing and selling your data to third parties. Buying from your phone manufacturers or service providers app store will help provide a little protection from these insidious apps, but be selective and cautious regardless. Also, be aware that many free games will use techniques to trick your children into making in-app purchases – look at your settings carefully to prevent these purchases and unexpected charges.

7. Be aware of the risk of using Bluetooth Similar to wi-fi, phones can often be unwittingly hijacked using Bluetooth. Disabling Bluetooth when not needed or in use, and restricting Bluetooth to pre-defined devices, will secure your data and also save your battery.

8. Back up your phone, often You might have copies of your home computer’s hard drive, but do you have your phone backed up? Photos, notes, important memories are all stored on a pocket sized device – don’t lose these memories when you lose your phone. Back it up, and check to ensure your back-up is working.

9. Erase and/or reset your device when upgrading Before you donate your old phone, ensure you wipe the data. Erasing is one simple step to ensuring the next owner of that hand-me-down doesn’t end up with all your personal information. Resetting the device can be a more thorough method than erasing – check your phone manufacturer’s support site for recommended steps to ensure all your data is permanently removed.

TELUS WISE To continue to learn more about wise Internet and smartphone use, take a minute to register on the TELUS WISE virtual community:

  • Go to www.telus.com/wise
  • Select [Register] at the top right hand of the screen
  • Enter your email address as your user name
  • You will receive an email to confirm your registration
  • Click on the link provided in the email

You will be prompted to create a password. You now have access to TELUS WISE: a secure site that provides you and your family with ongoing access to helpful media articles, resources, courses and discussion forums. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us at wise@telus.com.