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How smart is my phone?

how smart is your phone

These days it’s really hard to buy a cellular phone that just makes phone calls. Go on. Give it a go. Instead, phones are becoming mobile computers that access our social network sites, our e-mail, our personal banking, our family photos, videos of those dance moves at the club, and a myriad of other things we hold dear.

So. What happens if someone takes your phone ? Exactly what can they do ? I’ll let you think about that for a moment.

Instant access always open
Setting a simple lock code on your phone, and setting it to activate automatically, is the simplest and most basic solution. This means that all your e-mail accounts, social network accounts, pictures, and everything else have a basic first line of defense. It’s simple, and effective as a deterrent to all but a determined thief.

Don’t let an SMS ruin a good day
SMS Phishing is a technique that tries to get you to give information out to someone who appears to be a friend. Say for example your partner has their phone and wallet/purse  stolen and the thief sends you a message asking you to remind them of their PIN number. What do you do ? Is that something you would expect of your partner ? Another little known feature of many devices is the ability to “configure” them using an SMS message. Telephone providers use this method to help you configure a phone for their network. But, on many phones these messages are received and actioned automatically and silently. You may never even know you received the message! To help counter this is it possible on some devices to disable the automatic processing of these type of messages, meaning it does not actually action any change until you open the message. That allows you to decide whether or not open it or just delete it.

All that storage!
Many phones have a whole heap of storage available (way bigger than my first hard disk !!). Some phones have this as “internal” storage and other phones allow you to plug in additional memory cards to extra storage. The sheer amount of information you can carry around is amazing. Always remember that the “removable” storage in your phone is just that, removable. Often it can simply be plugged into another phone or a computer and all it’s contents can be read or copied. Some phones allow you to encrypt that removable storage. While it does impact the speed of the storage, I recommend you do it. Internal storage is far less susceptible to this and, as long as the phone itself has some sort of password and lock on it you really have to be determined (or a government spy) to get information out of it. More and more so these days smart phones are encrypted out-of-the-box so that is good news.

It’s SIMple really
Sorry about the pun. SIM cards are tiny bits of plastic and metal that allow your phone to connect to the world. Not many people actually store any information on SIM cards any more (sometimes contacts are kept there), but they do allow someone to pretend to be you. It’s effectively your phone number. To stop people pretending to be you, always try and put a PIN number of your SIM card. That will mean that if someone does take your SIM card and plug it into another phone, they won’t be able to use it unless they know the PIN.

Virus Alert
As phones become ubiquitous, the baddies are starting to seize the opportunity and are creating malware for smartphones that work in a similar way to those on computers. They steal data, send messages pretending to be you, run up large call or data costs, and send premium SMS messages. To help combat this some anti-virus vendors have versions of their software specifically for smartphones.

Now, not all phones are created equal and not all these tips are relevant for every phone so it’s important to seek advice if you need to. Additionally, judge for yourself the level of concern you have with your own phone and take appropriate action (or inaction) to suit your particular needs.