I carry a little computer with me everywhere I go. Think I'm a geek? Guess what? If you have an iPhone, Android device or any other smartphone, you do, too. Phones have become computers, so we need to become as security conscious about them as we are about our desktops and laptops.
If you do banking via your phone, multiply everything I said above to the Nth degree. Honestly, I hadn't thought much about any of this -- I'm a bit of a technophobe -- until my friend Adam Levin of Credit.com brought it up. "Our sensitive personal data is the new thief's currency, the new gold," said Levin, "and we need to manage it with the same level of attention as we would give the entrance to a bank vault. Our personal data is, in fact, the gateway to everything we own."
Here are Levin's best tips for protecting your smart phone -- and everything you do on it -- from hackers, identity thieves, crooks and creeps.
|Lock your phone.|
Yes, it's a pain, but we should all be using the locking features on our phones so that if they're stolen, our info isn't readily available to the thief. So set one of those 4-digit passwords, and make it a good one. Not the unimaginative 1111, 1234, 9876, etc.
|Install security software.|
This one really got my attention. Anti-virus software for a PHONE? Yep. I'll let the techies at places like CNet and MacWorld guide you to the best ones. This is particularly important for Android phones, less so for iPhones, because Apple's software is less often targeted by scammers.
|Don't save financial passwords.|
In other words, when you get that prompt that says "would you like to save this password for next time," it's OK to use that for your log in to the Cute Kitten Chatboard, but NOT to your bank interface. If your phone is stolen and a thief can get through your initial security (such as not locking your phone), then they can get into your bank account.
|Install track and wipe software.|
If your phone is stolen, it's ultra handy (and fun, in a revenge sort of way) to be able to track where the thieves have taken it, so maybe the authorities can even get it back. On the other hand, if the "search" option doesn't work out, you should also have the "destroy" option. In other words: software that can automatically wipe your cell phone of its contents remotely. Just make sure you back up your phone's contents to your computer and this will work just fine.
|Don't use the same password for everything.|
The bad news is you should never, ever, ever use the same password for all your accounts. The good news is, you don't necessarily have to have a unique password for every single interface. Here's Adam's practical advice: use different passwords for different "environments." So one for financial, another for social networking, a third for email, a fourth for retail, and so on.
I have always had an "important" password and a "junk" password. Not good enough! I knew my lazy-shortcut-for-somebody-who-can't-remember-what-day-it-is-not-to-mention-a zillion-passwords would come back to bite me someday! Gotta go. I've got some updating to do. Sigh...