The smartphone 📱 is the most important device in many people’s lives, which is why it’s incredibly important to make sure it’s properly secured, whether you own an Android or iPhone.

Get an iPhone

Okay, that might sound a little blunt, but iPhones are generally more secure than Android phones. That’s why people who might be at risk of being hacked, like lawyers 👨‍💼 and politicians 👴 usually have an iPhone. iPhones are also guaranteed to receive updates for five years after they have been released.

The safest Android phones are Pixel phones (formerly known as Nexus), made by Google. Google is working hard to develop Android so phone manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei and OnePlus can release (security) updates a lot faster.

Update as soon as you can

This recurring tip is still high on the list: always update your mobile devices as soon as you can ⏰. Updates fix security vulnerabilities that allow hackers to infiltrate your smartphone or tablet. Also regularly update your apps. These can contain security vulnerabilities too, giving hackers access to your private information.

Turn on encryption

Encryption ensures that your data, such as your messages and pictures, are saved in a digital vault 🔑. All iPhones and most Android phones have encryption turned on by default, but some Android phones require you to manually turn on encryption. The option to turn on encryption can be found by going to Settings > Security.

What if, for instance, someone happens to find your phone and connects it to a computer? Encryption ensures this person won’t be able to see all your chat logs and pictures. These can only be viewed if the correct passcode is entered, which is the key to your own digital vault. That’s why using a passcode to lock your mobile devices when you’re not using them is very important.

Use a six-digit passcode and the fingerprint scanner

By using a passcode, you prevent others from accessing your phone or tablet. Choose a six-digit passcode that only you know and don’t pick a standard code like 0-0-0-0-0-0, 1-2-3-4-5-6or 1-1-2-2-3-3. It’s also not recommended to use your birth date 🎂, just like any other combination based on personal information. iPhones and some Android phones also allow you to turn on an option that completely erases all contents from the phone if the wrong code is entered more than ten times. This can function as an extra security method, but it can also be quite risky if you don’t have a backup of your device.

In many cases, using the fingerprint scanner is easier. It works faster and is safer because someone can’t just copy your fingerprint to unlock your phone. If you want to temporarily turn off your fingerprint scanner, turn your device off and on again. It’ll prompt you to enter your passcode to access your device. If you don’t have a fingerprint scanner on your Android phone, you can also create a pattern to unlock it.

Your SIM card also has a passcode. You can edit this code and change it to a six-digit code in your smartphone’s settings, instead of using the standard 0-0-0-0. It’s a good idea to move all your contacts to your phone and remove them from your SIM card. If you happen to lose your phone, your contacts’ personal information can’t be extracted from the SIM card.

Only install apps from the App Store or Google Play

Most phones that contain malware are infected through apps that were not installed using the official app stores. This usually happens when people want to install a paid app or game for free. That ‘free’ app may have malware hidden inside, used for stealing credit card 💳 information. This goes for both Android and iOS phones.

Android poses another risk: there are lots of apps in the Google Play Store that might seem legitimate, but contain malware anyway. Make sure you do your research before downloading any app. Google the name of the app, read reviews and check to see how many times the app has been installed so far. In short: don’t just install any app on your Android phone or tablet.

It’s also important to check an app’s permissions. A flashlight app 🔦, for instance, shouldn’t require access to your contacts. You can check and edit the permissions of apps on both iOS and Android. For Android, go to Settings > Apps, and for iOS go to Settings > Privacy.

Turn off WiFi and Bluetooth if you don’t need them

Third parties can follow you using WiFi and Bluetooth. They could track the route you take to the bus stop, for instance. If you don’t need WiFi or Bluetooth when you’re on the go, it’s a good idea to temporarily switch them off using your device settings. You’ll also protect yourself from attacks via WiFi and Bluetooth.

If you’ve connected to a WiFi network in the past, your mobile device will automatically connect to that network when you’re nearby. This poses some risk. Hackers often create fake WiFi networks with names that are the same as networks you might’ve been connected to before, like Starbucks WiFi or McDonald's Free WiFi. Because your mobile device recognises these networks, it’ll attempt to automatically connect with them. It’s just another way for criminals to try and monitor what you do on the internet while attempting to intercept passwords and other personal information.

It’s wise to clean up your list of trusted WiFi networks from time to time. If you connect to a hotel’s WiFi network 🏨, for instance, remove the network from your device’s memory afterwards. Do this by opening your device’s settings and pressing forget after selecting the WiFi network in question. You can also set your Android and iOS device to not automatically connect to individual WiFi networks in the WiFi settings.

Don’t show notification previews in lock screens

Notifications can contain sensitive information 🙈, like a password a friend sent you using WhatsApp, or login codes sent via text messages. By hiding notifications in the lock screen (Android, iOS) no one will be able to see the contents. Only after unlocking your phone will you be able to see what the notifications say.

Back up your devices

Backups are incredibly important. Should your phone get stolen, you can always restore the backup on another phone. Google and Apple offer features that completely back up your phone. For many users, pictures are the most important thing on their phone. Back these up with services such as iCloud, Google Photosand Dropbox. Don’t forget to turn on two-factor authenticationfor these services.

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