Make Sure You Secure Your Smartphone

Do you own an iPhone, G1, Blackberry, Windows or Nokia smartphone? Fancy phones are a nice target for thieves, and unfortunately they’re often packed with sensitive information that can be too easily accessed and exploited. Why not take the time this weekend to make sure it’s secure?

Use the built-in security features

If your phone allows you to set a security code to turn it on or return from sleep mode, use it. Seriously, tapping in a few digits or tracing a pattern on the screen isn’t that inconvenient, considering it’s the easiest and cheapest way to lock a thief out of sensitive data.

On the iPhone, you can even set the device to wipe itself after 10 failed attempts to enter the correct PIN.

Phones that run Symbian (e.g. Nokia phones) have a setting that will lock the phone automatically if another SIM card is inserted.

If your phone supports auto-blind cc on emails—for example iPhones and Blackberries—turn that on so you can potentially intercept messages.

Consider installing anti-theft software

Most smartphone platforms have at least one software solution out there for tracking or remotely accessing your phone should it go missing. Finding where your phone is at the moment is only half the battle, of course; you’ll still have to get the police interested in your cause, or go vigilante and try to track it down on your own. (Yes, there’s the occasional crowd-sourced success story, but sadly we can’t run every stolen iPhone story on the blog.)

Here are some sample anti-theft and tracking apps for phones. Some of them are free, some cost up to $25. We’re sure there’s more, and we’re not endorsing anything—this list is just to help you out if you have no idea what to look for. Also, before you buy an app, make sure it’s not offering functionality that’s built-in to your device already.

iPhone
Note that apps can’t run in the background, so any app-based security is inherently insecure on the iPhone platform—it will only be effective if you train yourself to re-launch the app every time you stop using another app.

Android G1

Blackberry

Windows Mobile

Symbian/Nokia

If it’s really expensive, consider adding it to your insurance

Some smartphones are such an investment—especially if you buy them unlocked and unsubsidized—that it may be worth your peace of mind to see whether you can add the phone to your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Check out this post for details.

Make it easy for someone to contact you

If you follow our advice above and do everything you can to lock others out of your phone, you’ll also effectively prevent any Good Samaritan from being able to reach you to return the phone.

If your phone has a wallpaper or background image that displays when the phone is locked, consider adding an email address to the image—sort of the digital equivalent of a bookplate or luggage tag. (If you’re completely inept with graphics programs, we found a free 99 cents app called Wallpaper Maker on the iPhone store that will slap your contact info on your wallpaper for you.) You can also add something like that to custom skins you might apply to your device. If you have a case, put a label on the inside of it.

(Photo: AMagill)