Before leaving your home you make sure to lock the doors. When you park your car and get out, again, you make sure to lock the doors. But when you put down your smartphone do you lock the screen? You should, it's the first line of defense in protecting all of the sensitive data your smartphone contains.
Have you ever left your smartphone on the dinner table while you snuck off to the bathroom and later found an embarrassing status posted to one of your social media accounts? Dont blame the frape on your friends, blame yourself for not locking your device. An unlocked device represents a digital playground for your prankster friends and actual criminals. Think of all the sensitive data stored on your mobile device, personal photos, text messages, emails, access to your social media or bank accounts and more. If you were ever to lose your device or, god forbid, have it stolen then all of this information would be at the fingertips of a stranger.
In an ongoing survey hosted by Armor for Android readers were asked if they use a device lock screen and, if so, what kind of lock screen. So far the results are encouraging, 88% of respondents state that they do use a device lock screen. However, 18% of users state that they use the simple slide-to-open form of lock screen which can be opened by anyone who has mastered basic motor skills. It will be interesting to see if lock screen options like facial recognition and fingerprint scanners become more prominent as the technology advances and becomes more reliable. We recommend using a PIN, Pattern or a Password form of lock screen, these three styles are the most secure and reliable form of lock screen. Whichever style of lock screen you choose be sure to choose a strong passcode. When using a PIN avoid the 20 most common PIN numbers, if you use a password lock screen be sure that your password does not contain real words and cannot be easily guessed, and if you choose a pattern lock screen avoid choosing basic shapes and patterns.
Now let's discuss data backup, our second digital savior. A device lock screen can protect your information from falling into the wrong hands, but it can't prevent your device from falling into a puddle. Losing all your personal data can be just as gut wrenching as having it stolen, 73% of people surveyed said they had permanently lost data due to a lost, stolen, or damaged device.
Backing up your data is the easiest way to avoid unforeseen data loss. I, for one, have dropped my smartphone into more than my fair share of sinks, toilets, pools, lakes, fish tanks, you name it. After completely losing my smartphone data on more than one occasion I began using a data backup service. By backing up my device regularly I avoid losing my contacts, photos, calendar schedule, personal notes and more, in the seemingly inevitable event of my device encountering yet another rogue body of water.
Lastly, the landscape of computers is changing. The devices we call smartphones are quickly becoming full blown computers for our pockets and cybercriminals have noticed. Mobile malware has been on the rise for several years and an alarming 73% of survey respondents say that they have had a malware infection on their mobile device. Very commonly mobile malware aims to steal money from victims by committing premium service fraud. This type of fraud incurs charges from premium phone numbers that recur each month on the victims phone bill, often without their knowledge. But mobile malware has also becoming stunningly complex, some forms of mobile malware can completely seize control of an infected device to use as part of a mobile botnet or simply to monitor and harvest sensitive information that can be used to steal a victim's identity. Using an antivirus application for your mobile device is no longer an option, it is essential to device security.
In our increasingly mobile world it is important to be aware of mobile security. Always use a device lock screen, regularly backup the data from your mobile device to a backup service, and use mobile antivirus software to protect yourself from the growing landscape of mobile malware.♦
James Green is a mobile security researcher who has worked in the Android security field for several years providing privacy and security advice to Android users. Email:James@ArmorforAndroid.com; Twitter:@James_AfA