Protecting the Universal Remote Control of Your Life—Your Smartphone

Aside from using it for calls and texting, we use our smartphones for plenty of things. We’re sending money with payment apps. We’re doing our banking. And we’re using them to set the alarm, turn our lights on and off, see who’s at the front door, and for some of us, even start our cars. The smartphone is evolving, and in many ways, it’s become the “universal remote control” of our lives. And that means it needs protection. 

Truly, think about all that you do from the palm of your hand. Your phone connects you to so many essential things, it’s tough to think what the day would be like without it—or worse yet, if your phone got stolen or lost. Maybe you know the feeling. That rising panic when you misplace your phone and then the relief you feel when you find it.  

Yet you have plenty of ways you can protect yourself and your phone, not only from loss and theft but from hacks and attacks too. 

Five steps for a safer phone 

1. Install an online protection app  

Comprehensive online protection software can protect your phone in the same ways that it protects your laptops and computers. Installing it can protect your privacy, keep you safe from attacks on public Wi-Fi, and automatically block unsafe websites and links, just to name a few things it can do.  

2. Set your apps to automatically update 

Updates do all kinds of great things for gaming, streaming, and chatting apps, like add more features and functionality over time. Updates do something else—they make those apps more secure. Hackers will hammer away at apps to find or create vulnerabilities, which can steal personal info or compromise the device itself. Updates will often include security improvements, in addition to performance improvements.  

iPhones update apps automatically by default, yet you can learn how to turn them back on here if they’ve been set to manual updates. For Android phones, this article can help you set apps to auto-update if they aren’t set that way already. 

Much the same goes for the operating system on smartphones too. Updates can bring more features and more security. iOS users can learn how to update their phones automatically in this article. Likewise, Android users can refer to this article about automatic updates for their phones. 

3. Use a lock screen with a passcode, PIN, facial recognition, or pattern key 

Fewer people use a lock screen than you might think. A finding from our recent global research showed that only 56% of adults said that they protect their smartphone with a password or passcode. The problem with going unlocked is that if the phone gets lost or stolen, you’ve basically handed over a large portion of your digital life to a thief. Setting up a lock screen is easy. It’s a simple feature found in both iOS and Android devices. 

4. Learn how to remotely lock or erase a smartphone 

So what happens if your phone actually ends up getting lost or stolen? A combination of device tracking, device locking, and remote erasing can help protect your phone and the data on it. Different device manufacturers have different ways of going about it, but the result is the same—you can you’re your phone, prevent others from using it, and even erase it if you’re truly worried that it’s in the wrong hands or simply gone for good. Apple provides iOS users with a step-by-step guide, and Google offers up a guide for Android users as well.  

5. Steer clear of third-party app stores 

One way hackers work their way into smartphones is through malicious apps that pose as photo editors, VPNs, and games—yet are loaded with malware that spy on your activity or steal account information. Google Play and Apple’s App Store have measures in place to review apps to help ensure that they are safe and secure. Granted, cybercriminals have found ways to work around Google and Apple’s review process, yet they’re quick to remove malicious apps once discovered. Yet third-party app stores and websites likely have no such protections in place. In fact, some third-party sites may intentionally host malicious apps as part of a scam. Stick with the official app stores for a far safer phone. 

Protect the universal remote control of your life 

Truly, we hold so much in the palm of our hand. Our smartphones connect us to our friends and family, work and livelihoods, banking and finances, and even our homes and the smart devices in them. It’s no exaggeration to say that a good portion of daily life courses through our smartphones. And when we look at them that way, it puts the importance of protecting them in a whole new light.  

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