With the continuing fall-out from the “News of the World” phone tapping scandal now is probably a good time to talk about security for your smartphone. If you have an iPhone, Nokia or HTC or any one of the other smartphones you should be treating access to this and it’s stored data the same as you would any computers you may own; in fact; taking into account the portability and size of your smartphone, you should be taking this security even more seriously!
Security on your smartphone goes far beyond having a PIN to access the phone, you need the equivalent of PC anti-virus & firewall software at least. And don’t forget about backing up the data on the phone!
There are numerous ways that “bad” people can access your phone. Obviously having physical access to it is one way and you may think that a PIN or password will fix this but remember passwords can be cracked. Also, don’t forget the media or memory card inserted into the little slot in the side or back that contains images, videos and other information. Of course your phone can also be remotely “hacked” as in the News of the World story where journalists were able to access a phone remotely and read the messages, etc stored on it.
Some manufacturers such as Blackberry-maker Research in Motion (RIM) offer encryption for the microSD card, or there are third party apps that enable you to do this.
For more complete security you will need to install a security app such as Kapersky Mobile Security 9, a security app for Symbian (Nokia) phones which offers many features including encryption and the ability to locate a lost phone via GPS!
So how do you go about securing your Smartphone?
Well first, you need to know what mobile OS the phone is running. If you have an iPhone, that’s easy, it runs iOS. A Nokia is probably running Symbian and a HTC will be running Android. The documentation that came with the phone will tell you this.
Next, what level of security do you need? If your phone is just used for private/personal use and you call Mum or the kids and only have a few family snaps stored on it then maybe a PIN is enough? Although with the cost of phones you may want to have the ability to locate a lost phone via GPS?
However, if your phone is used for business purposes you should have a much higher level of security. You will need a PIN/password to protect access to it. You will require encryption of all data stored on it, especially contact details and emails (even more so for memory cards). You will no doubt also want the ability to locate the phone if it is lost/stolen. Maybe you also want the ability to remote wipe all data if unable to retrieve the phone?
There are many more options available with some of the mobile phone security apps and if you think about it, the decision on which app to buy is not really the important decision, you should in fact be thinking about the level of security you need before deciding which phone to buy as some phones for instance do not offer the ability to encrypt data.
My favourite subject! Do you store contacts and email on your phone? Are there photos and videos on the memory card you could not bare to lose? Then you need to ensure that you have a backup plan for your phone. Personally I am moving towards storing all my data in The Cloud, as to me it seems logical that as we become more mobile, using laptops, smartphones, iPads, etc, the idea of storing your data on a hard disk in your office or home does not compute! You will want access to your data from anywhere from any device and you will preferably want this data synchronised across devices so storing/backing up your data in The Cloud makes sense.
If you are a Mac user and you have an iPhone then there is an easy solution for you with Apple’s iCloud. This is a new app, not yet available in Australia but from what I can tell it will store all your data in “The Cloud“, in fact in Apple’s very own cloud! It will synchronise all your stored data across all your iOS devices (iPhone, Mac, iPad, iPod, etc) so no device is ever out of date. This includes contacts in the Address Book, email, apps, documents, etc.
If you use another make then there are third party options such as Sprite Mobile for Android which utilises online data storage/backup solutions such as Dropbox and Box.
Of course, nothing is ever simple. As mentioned above not all security features are available on all phones. Some phones come with in-built features some offer the same features as downloadable apps, either free or paid. Some include a certain amount of online storage for free, some don’t. In some cases the apps have been designed well and and are easy to use and of course some aren’t! Last but not least, some phones have simple synchronisation options with other devices and some don’t! As is often the case with technology the amount of choice is the biggest hurdle in making the right decision. There is so much on offer out there that researching can take for ever. The best place to start is to talk to people you know, such as friends, family and business associates and ask them about their experiences. This will often narrow down your choices.
So once again, I think I have posed more questions than I have answered! But then that is what I am really trying to do with posts such as this. I want to make you start thinking about things such as data security before you make purchasing decisions. It can save you a lot of money and pain in the long run!