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Improve your mobile phone security

Recently, I spoke at a business forum.  The topic was small business cyber-security.  The organizer of the event asked that I address common cyber-security pitfalls, especially those that affect small businesses, and, offer a quick remedy to those pitfalls.

I appreciated the focus on addressing cyber-security problems.  For me, I always want a forum or conference to provide a productive takeaway, something that I can immediately begin to use in my work.

However, when discussing cyber-security issues, the variety of concerns are numerous, and, often, the solutions aren’t straight-forward.  I decided the best way to approach the group was via a pre-discussion survey.

In the survey, I asked the participants about common security concerns, described several common threats.  Essentially, I wanted to determine if there were any commonalities among the participants, assess the degree of awareness, and use those data to create a more valuable presentation.

The responses were varied, but, they shared a common theme.  And, not surprising, the degree of awareness was low.

When I arrived at the event, I was equipped with my presentation, the results of the survey.  My plan was simple: quickly review the survey and jump into the material.

That old saying about best-laid plans quickly became a reality.

As I started the survey review, I was interrupted.  One of the participants told me that the survey “scared me to death.”  And, the others agreed.  I found another common theme unexpectantly: I inadvertently scared every business representative.

I didn’t move beyond the first slide of the presentation.

The best-laid plans went out the door, and, the presentation became a series of questions and requests from the group.  One of the great things was the enthusiasm.  I truly enjoy when the crowd becomes involved in the subject.  The group was very passionate about protecting their assets.  Their questions were insightful, the momentum of the crowd was contagious and before I knew it, my hour was gone.  But, they stayed.

Three hours later, I was exhausted.

I made notes from the event.  In reviewing those, while some of the questions were related to small business needs, the majority were personal.  In fact, the overwhelming majority were associated with mobile device security.

As the crowd illustrated, the mobile smartphone has become an integral part of our lives.  The devices are with us constantly.  We use them for communications, for work and recreation.  As a result, the devices are littered with access to important information, and, likely hosts to hoards of personal and work data.

One of the methods that I enjoy employing during training is situation-based exercises.  Imagine for a moment that your smartphone is missing.

Are you uncomfortable?  Does the thought of someone wandering around your device and its contents bother you?  The small business participants were quite concerned.

Below, I offer suggestions for improving your mobile smartphone security, quick measures to reduce the angst of a lost device.

Number one, maintain positive control of your smartphone: don’t lose your device.  That’s easy, right?

Well, for those of you who are prone to losing items, let’s allow technology to help us track our gear.

If you use an iPhone, you’re in great shape.  Through your AppleID, by default, your device will enable location tracking.  If you ever lose your device, simply visit iCloud.com and start tracking your device – there are a number of additional features as well, all designed to minimize loss of personal information if the device is missing.

For Androids users, tracking your device is very similar.  Simply visit android.com/find and use your Google account to log in, if you’ve installed the Find My App device previously.  Assuming your missing device is logged into the Google account, has internet access and location services enabled, you will be able to see its location.

Number two, enable password protection on your device, and, be certain the passcode is complex.  Apple previously allowed 4-digit pins, they no longer allow those – 6-digit pins are the minimum.  If you don’t have a passcode enabled on your smartphone due to the inconvenience, image the inconvenience that a lost device will present.  And, please, don’t use a trivial, or, easily-guessed passcode.

Number three, erase the phone.  If your phone is missing, and, you visit the location tracker, and, determine that chasing it is a lost cause, delete the device’s contents immediately.  On the iPhone, from the tracking map, simply click the phone’s icon on the map, select Erase iPhone, confirm your credentials, and the phone will be erased remotely.  For Android users, if you’re using the Android Find My Device app that I mentioned above, simply visit Android.com/find, locate your phone, and select the erase function.  But, you must have the Find My Device app installed prior to the loss of the phone for Android devices.

Number four, make certain that your device is being backed up properly.  Whether you sync the smartphone with a computer, use cloud storage, or whatever you do to backup your device, check that it’s working.  It would be a nightmare to discover that you failed to enable a setting or verify your account – and the device goes missing.  Not only would you experience the pain of having to acquire a new smartphone, but, you will have to start over, no photos, nothing.

And lastly, change your other account passwords.  If your phone falls into a stranger’s hands, not only will the thief attempt to dig through the contents, but, the intruder will search for logged-in apps and accounts.  If you have financial applications on the device, the person will be able to access your money.  If you save passwords in your web browser, they will be able to access your Amazon account, etc.

Changing passwords for scores of accounts will be a massive undertaking.  It’s best to not lose the device.  However, things happen.  And, when they do, be certain you’ve backed up the device, enabled location and tracking, and if necessary, wipe the contents from a distance.

Be safe and keep those devices in sight.