Our cell phones are a gateway to the world, but also a portal to our personal information. Think about it—if someone picked your unlocked smartphone they could access your email, social media accounts, phone settings, texting history, contacts, and perhaps even some financial information.

Since most of us do not leave home without our phones, it just makes sense to ensure they are as secure as possible. There are steps everyone, no matter their technical proficiency, can take to protect their privacy. Here are some suggestions from a recent online article in Forbes. Most of these precautions apply no matter your brand of phone.

  • Keep your phone locked at all times. Make sure your passcode or PIN is unique to your phone. Using the same passcode across devices and apps just make things easier for hackers should they breach your security measures.
  • Be sure to install updates on your devices. They often contain software related to security that will make your phone more secure.
  • Closeout your apps every night. First, they may be using up your battery. Secondly, open apps can be an invitation to hackers. It’s rare, but it can happen.
  • Be extremely careful in public places.
  1. Never enter passwords to an app, especially banking, in a public place like an airport if you can avoid it. Hackers can use software to capture those passwords if they are nearby.
  2. Try not to use public charging stations in airports and other places. Here’s a new vocabulary word: juice-jacking. It is possible to install hacking devices in these charging stations that install malware on your device or duplicate your data. Two solutions to consider: (1) carry an external charger with you and (2) use a USB data blocking device. You can find both of these devices in electronics stores or on Amazon.
  • Learn about the different options for “Find My Device” apps and websites. Not only will they show you on a map where your device is, but they can also erase all data if necessary.
  1. Information for iPhones: https://www.apple.com/icloud/find-my/.
  2. Information for Android devices: https://tinyurl.com/8wtyae7s.
  • Put a PIN on your SIM card (card in your phone that holds data). A SIM card can be taken out of a locked phone and put into an unlocked phone which allows the perpetrator to see all of the data on the SIM card. It is important to note that the original SIM PIN is set by your carrier. You can find out what it is by searching the carrier’s name + SIM PIN. For example, ATT + SIM PIN. ATT + Verizon use the same default PIN for all SIM cards, so it makes sense to personalize it.
  1. Directions for an iPhone: https://tinyurl.com/y9jvu8z2.
  2. Directions for an Android: https://tinyurl.com/2afr66b2.
  • You might consider using a “Password Manager” to store your passwords. They are an extra layer of protection. Here’s a link to several reliable choices: https://www.pcmag.com/picks/the-best-password-managers.
  • If you sell or give your phone away, make sure you wipe it clean.
  1. Here’s a link that explains how to wipe an iPhone clean: https://tinyurl.com/4canpfhk.
  2. Here’s a link with directions on how to erase an Android phone: https://tinyurl.com/3dx562kc.

We also need to learn about the security and privacy functions specific to our phones. They vary by brand. It will mean diving into Settings which scares some people because they fear they will somehow damage their phone. Relax; most any action you take in Settings is easily reversible. Those that are not reversible come with plenty of warnings so you can quickly back away.

As stated above, the settings vary by brand so there is a section for iPhones and one for Androids. In most cases, these settings are also the same for your tablet.

Androids

Google developed the Android software and sells it to various brands like Samsung, Motorola, and others. This situation means that sometimes the Settings vary in their setup on the different Android phones. Therefore you may have to a little searching of Settings to find the correct command.

For all of these suggestions, you need to start in System Settings (gear icon in your app drawer). Warning: older phones may not have all of these options.

  • Check your app permissions. They might include “Show your Location When Using” or other such options.
  1. Go to the Privacy section of Settings
  2. Tap on Permission Manager
  3. If you do not see Permission Manager, go to the App section in Settings and look at apps individually to make your choices.
  • Double check Google Play Protect. This is the Android security system that alerts you to any suspicious activity.
  1. After you are in System Settings, tap on Security.
  2. Look for Google Play Protect and tap.
  3. Once there, look for a gear icon in the upper right-hand corner and tap.
  4. Make sure Google Play Protect is on.
  • Control what notifications show up on your lock screen. Sometimes an email notification with private information you don’t want others to see may pop up. You can control what shows up on your lock screen.
  1. Once on System Settings, look for Privacy. Tap.
  2. Then tap on Notifications on Lock Screen.
  3. Look at your options and choose which is best for you.
  • Enable the Smart Lock feature. This option makes sure no one can force you to open your phone with either your face or fingerprint identification. You also have choices when you can have your phone remain unlocked.
  1. Start in System Settings and look for the Security tab. Tap.
  2. Next, look for Screen Lock.
  3. Samsung phones have an entire section called Screen Lock.
  4. Review your options.
  • Uninstall unused apps. Rarely, but sometimes an unused app can become a gateway for nefarious purposes. Just makes sense to rid your phone of apps you are not using. Also, getting rid of unused apps saves you space in your phone’s system.
  1. Open your App Drawer and identify apps that are no longer any use to you.
  2. Press and hold the app icon until you see the uninstall or remove button.
  3. Sometimes you will see an App Information option. Tap that button to uninstall.
  • Turn off Google Ad Personalization System. Google, like Facebook, sells your data (interests, what your purchase, and so on) to others. Turning off this conduit of information protects your privacy.
  1. Start in System Settings and scroll until you find the Google section.
  2. Tap on Manage Your Google Account.
  3. Then tap on Data & Personalization.
  4. Look for the Ad Personalization tab.
  5. Go to Ad Settings and turn it off.
  6. You will still see ads, but they will not be determined by your data.

For additional security and privacy hints, check out these two excellent and detailed articles:

iPhones

All iPhones share the same operating system that is updated regularly. You have a lot of control over the features on your phone so it is wise to learn about them. To enact these suggestions, you need to go to Settings by tapping on the gray icon that looks like a gear on your Home Screen.

The main screen in Settings has your name at the top and then a list of features; Airplane Mode, WiFi, Bluetooth, and so on. The way you get back to that screen once you have gone deeper into Settings is to tap on the blue text or arrow in the upper left-hand corner of your screen. That’s your back button.

Let’s start with Wi-Fi.

  1. Tap on Wi-Fi.
  2. Locate your home network; it has a blue checkmark next to it. Tap on the blue i in the circle.
  3. Turn Private Address on. As you see in the small print, this features reduces the chances that your phone will be tracked across different Wi-Fi networks.

Tap on the blue text in the upper left-hand corner until you get back to the main Settings screen.

Scroll down to Face (Fingerprint) ID & Passcode

  1. Look at your options.
  2. Stop at Require Passcode and tap. This setting allows you to decide how long you wish your phone to remain idle before requiring a passcode. Remember, your passcode is a safety precaution to keep others out of your phone.
  3. Next, look at “Allow Access When Locked.” You choose which apps you want to be able to access without unlocking your phone.

Finally, scroll down to Erase Data. Notice if you have this function turned on that all data will be erased if there are 10 unsuccessful passcode attempts. If you have grandchildren playing with your phone, you might want to turn this feature off.

Go back to the Settings main screen and scroll down to Privacy.

  1. Tap on Location Services. You probably want this feature turned on.
  2. Scroll down to System Services and tap.
  3. Scroll down to Significant Locations and tap. If it is turned on, you will see where you have been recently. If Significant Locations is turned off, there will be no listing. You get to decide whether or not your phone will show where you have been.

Go back one screen to where Location Services is at the top.

  1. Scroll down until you see the list of apps.
  2. You can choose when each app may see your location: Never, Ask Next Time, and While Using the App. Simply tap on the app name to see your choices.
  3. Some apps such as Maps and Weather will not work unless you have “While Using the App” turned on. The choice is yours on the other apps.

Find your way back to the main Settings screen using the blue text up in the upper left-hand corner. Tap on Passwords.

  1. Pay special attention to Security Recommendations. Tap.
  2. Make sure Detect Compromised Passwords is turned on.
  3. Peruse any problems listed with passwords and address those problems by changing them when necessary.
  4. Go back one screen and look at the list of apps. If you tap on them individually, you will find your user name and password. Convenient; however, this information is vulnerable if you leave your unlocked phone lying about!

Go back to Settings main screen and scroll down to Safari.

  1. Scroll down to PRIVACY & SECURITY.
  2. Make sure both Prevent Cross-Site Tracking and Fraudulent Website Warning are turned on.
  3. Cross-site tracking is when a website you visit continues to track your internet use after you leave their site. That information is used to target you for marketing practices.
  4. To see Cross-Site Tracking attempts, go back to your Home Screen and open the Safari App.
  • Look for AA icon in the search or URL window at the top of the screen.
  • Tap the double As. A menu will drop down. At the bottom is Privacy Report. Tap on it and you will see which sites have attempted to cross-site track you while browsing the internet.

Here are two articles with even more information about protecting your privacy and security on your iPhone.

Our cell phones are truly amazing, allowing us to communicate in a variety of ways. However, we need to take responsibility for learning and controlling our individual privacy and security settings.

Author

BoomerTECH Adventures provides expert guidance and resources to help Boomers and older adults develop competence and confidence using their Apple devices. Boomers themselves, BoomerTECH Adventures rely on their skills as educators to create experiences that meet individual needs through videos, Zoom presentations, tech tips, and timely blog posts.

Flip the script after 50

You'll be on cloud nine!

Flip the script after 50

You'll be on cloud nine!

Flip the script after 50

You'll be on cloud nine!