Since our smartphones are now an integral part of our social and professional lives, they have become a gold mine of personal information and a storage bank that contains important data about how we live our daily lives. It contains invaluable information about ourselves, from our schedules and credit card information, to our private conversations, the apps we use, our social media profiles, and e-mails. In short, the kind of information you don’t want anyone else to access, but is precisely what hackers are targeting.

Here are ways you can protect yourself from people who want to hack into your personal information and possibly use it for purposes of identity theft:

  1. The Basics
    Set your phone to lock automatically when not in use. If given an option between a pin code and creating a swipe pattern in accessing your smartphone, opt for the pin instead. Using a combination of letters, numbers and characters is also best practice.
  2. For android users: Install security software
    Much like a desktop computer, our mobile devices are also vulnerable to viruses and malware. Installing mobile security software that warns against potential security risks when managing apps or accessing risky websites is a good tool to help avoid catching any infections that can mess up your phone’s operating system.
  3. Update your phone
    Whether you’re using an Android or iOS device, make sure that you always update it to get the latest stable version of your OS. This way, you will have the latest and most improved layer of defense installed on your phone.
  4. In case of theft: Encrypt your phone
    In the event that your phone gets stolen, encrypting your phone will prevent the thief from accessing your files that may lead to all kinds of privacy disasters like identity theft and leaked data.
  5. Keep your personal data personal
    Whenever you access a public WiFi network, your phone’s stored data could be left vulnerable and easily accessible by hackers. To avoid this, turn off your automatic WiFi settings and delete networks that cannot be trusted. While you’re at it, switch your Bluetooth to “not discoverable” to keep yourself aware of all connections. Better yet turn off WiFi and Bluetooth when not in use. This will also help keep your battery last longer.
50 Comments
  1. Many very important tips here, thanks for sharing! I would like to add another new feature in new phones: iCloud or Android Lost can allow you to remotely disable your phone if you lose it. By doing this you can lock access to your phone and erase all data on your phone as well, preventing thieves or hackers from using your phone or gaining access to your information.

    • Great point here, if your phone is ever stolen it is a /very/ good idea to reset it remotely if at all possible.

      Some great points in the article, especially installing security applications on your Android device. Although it may use a little extra battery life, the benefits greatly outweigh the cons.

    • iCloud is not so trusted. Specially after what happened with the celebrity nudes leak. I haven’t heard the news lately if Apple updated or improved the system, which I’m sure they did. But after something that big happens, people start to doubt their security.

    • Thanks for the extra tip Cheddar!

      Will keep that in mind (but hopefully won’t need it)… and hopefully, if I ever lose my phone, I can easily find it or disable it if it’s unable to be found.

      Once again, thanks for contributing along with David into helping me and other people here keep our information safe and be able to secure our phones if we ever lose it. Both are such good tips!

  2. I have been worried about public wifi security for a while. Sometimes getting on them is necessary for me, though. Is there anything else I can do to protect my info on my iphone?

  3. Great information. We live in a time where the content in our phones is open to multiple dangers. I personally use the swipe lock but I have a pin for my sim card. I would also add that people should be wary of saving any documents on their phone that might contain their passwords. Most top tier phones are now providing various app/folder lock options and encryption software to help maintain privacy.

    • Or do the banking on your mobile. I know a girl who does most of her banking on her mobile! I really think she is nuts, she really thinks it’s totally safe to do what she does, but I really don’t think so. I really think that sooner or later she will have a really rude awakening.

      • Have you informed her the weaknesses in mobile banking? I have not used mobile banking before. I usually do such transactions on my home computer. If I have an emergency, I will use a public computer, then wipe the history and cookies after I am done.

        • @Radix24, Using a public computer for bank transactions seems dangerous. It’s great you make sure to log out and wipe the history and cookies, but in my experience, those public computers are filled with viruses/spyware of all kinds. There could be programs running in the background that log your keystrokes and send the details to some hacker somewhere.

          • I am well aware of that fact. That is why I avoid that one. If I do use it, I immediately change the password of my bank accounts the moment I go home.

        • I have, Radix24, but she thinks I’m crazy! She won’t believe me,she thinks that because there is an app for her to do her banking online it means it is completely safe to bank using her mobile. Plus other people we know use it as well, so that in her book means it is safe enough >_< I feel for her.

      • There are countries which process a lot of payments through mobile phones; Not just for mobile banking. The systems are very efficient and the only security threats arise when you give away your pin, otherwise, they are safe. I think we assume safety e.g we think using atm is safer than mobile but someone else will argue its better to go directly to the bank counter than use atm. Each have their merits and demerits

      • I do all of my banking through my mobile phone. In fact I vary rarely even use my computer anymore to check my bank account. I imagine there is a risk with accessing my account through my phone, but isn’t there also a risk in swiping your debit card at the gas station pump? I have heard all sorts of stories about people being hacked from using their card at the gas station. The world is full of risks.

  4. Most technology illiterate people are the most vulnerable for attack. They probably don’t even have a screen lock on their phone. I have tons of security on my phone. A fingerprint scanner on my galaxy s5 keeps anyone from trying to look at my code. My phone is running the latest edition of andriod(can’t wait till 5.0 lollipop comes out). I have 2 apps that can trace my phone and lock it. Lookout is the best. It can track your phone if it gets turned off, take a picture of the thief among other things, and its antivirus. I keep all of my information secure so it would be hard for someone to get it.

    • There is seriously such a thing that can trace your phone? Smartdude966 I am one of the technology illiterate people whom you refer to and would love to change that. I am hoping to get a few advice tips on how to become less vulnerable to identity theft. It seems like every time I turn around someone knows someone who has had their identity compromised.

  5. It’s hard to believe that a lot of people don’t turn off Bluetooth or WiFi when they leave the house. Most people don’t know that your phone actually blasts out info of what WiFi networks it’s looking for, and based on the SSID of the networks it blasts out, it could allow people to find out the location of your home, work, or places you frequent. Bluetooth is even worse, because if you turn on Bluetooth in a public place, you’re bound to see at least 5 devices with Bluetooth on. Thank god that with iOS 8 and Android Lollipop that they’re at least enabling phone encryption by default. But also, sometimes the trust in a fingerprint scanner that has already been cracked open and can’t be fixed software-wise is a bit too much for me.

    • Wow, thank’s for the tips and information about Bluetooth and WiFi.
      Kinda sad, but I’ve never thought of the risks behind leaving Bluetooth and my WiFi turned on for my phone.
      But that’s some pretty reasonable information, techbeast34.
      I’ll keep that in mind, and thanks once again to you and David for helping me out a bunch!

  6. I certainly don’t look after my smartphone security needs as much as I should do. This has certainly highlighted that. One thing that I can’t bring myself to do yet, though, is to undertake credit card transactions on it. Maybe deep down I realize that my approach to security isn’t the best, and is why I’ve steered clear of using the credit card.

    • Same here, this article and the one about most flashlight apps being malware really opened my eyes. Sadly i have no idea where to start and what apps I should be getting, I only have an antivirus, I installed it a while ago, but to be honest I don’t really trust it. Ah well, we will see what happens!

      • Yeah, I think these articles have just shown me how incredibly naive I’ve been. I really think I need to start from scratch in relation to the apps already sitting on my phone and make sure I have a better grip on security issues.

      • I don’t trust my antivirus anymore either. I got the premium version that you pay for and it let the flashlight app slip through. I thought I paid for extra security.

  7. Uhm, I didn’t think that setting a lock was a also necessary to stop hackers, knowing that I will surely do that. I often worry about my privacy when using my android, that’s why I try not to access certain sites and services with my mobile. I have no idea how some people can do their banking with their mobile.

  8. It’s also important to make sure your phone is using a strong password, like one with lots of letters and numbers. As of iOS 8, all of your messages are encrypted with your pass code, so it is best to use a pass phrase rather than a 4 digit code.

  9. I have not heard of apps that encrypts the phone. I better search for that. Yes, nice tips for the less tech savvy people. Technology does gives us both a boon and bane when in comes to personal data. I should use the tips here once I get my own smartphone.

    One thing that this tip should be really good with is when people use mobile banking.

    • I completely agree with the boon and bane point.
      Technology is extremely helpful in so many ways, such as easier access of information, helping many jobs out, and helping communication. However, it also has some bad aspects to it, such as the leak of information, the cost of the devices, and the different threats on the internet.
      That being said, my thanks are given to people like David helping those who are less tech savvy, and making sure that people’s smartphones are safer.
      Really good tips David, thanks!

  10. Thanks for sharing this information, it was quite helpful and an eye opener. I’ve done every preventive measure you have described here, I’m pretty sure my phone is gonna be safe now. I’m gonna try to install a few anti virus apps too just in case

  11. I have a question regarding catching viruses and the hacking of one’s own smartphone. How exactly do they enter through your phone? Is it by just some applications that can be downloaded for the PlayStore and other application downloaders, or can they also come through ways like your email as they would on a regular device like a computer virus?

    • Yes, once you’ve downloaded an app from the app store and even grant certain permissions to the developers, it can install malware on your smartphone device and sometimes without your knowledge or without your antivirus software picking up on it. You can also get online threats on your phone through browsing infected websites, rooting your phone and weakening its stance, transferring infected files from your computer to phone or opening malicious emails.

      It’s pretty much like computers in the sense that smartphones can get infected, seeing that smartphones use operating systems. The only difference is that there is much fewer incidents where smartphones are infected compared to computers. One reason is because apps that are put up on the app store are usually thoroughly reviewed and the developer has to submit their info in the process, lessening any ill-will. While on computers, apps/programs can be downloaded anywhere on the net and don’t have to be regulated and part of a store.

      • I have a question regarding the submitting and reviewing process of the App Store.

        Is there any obvious or less-obvious reasons why the different infected flash light (or any infected) application can get through? I mean, if the application is asking for all these permissions unrelated to flash-lights, shouldn’t that prompt Google to check out if there’s anything wrong with the applications

        That being said, I’m probably missing a big idea or obvious reason. But feel free to inform me, I’m still learning!

  12. These are all important steps to go about preventing the theft of personal information. This is a topic that directly links to the recent flashlight app malware incident that I have been worrying about recently. But it’s good to know I’ve used a pin code to lock my phone when not in use, I’ve had Avast installed and it actually caught malware from the Badoo app, which I quickly uninstalled, I update my phone regularly and I avoid accessing personal info on WiFi networks. So I do most of the advice used to prepare this list and I’m glad to know I do.

    • Badoo app. Not familiar with that one, had to search for it though. Anyway, that was a good catch. What was the name of the malware? I wish to search the name and the effect of it.

  13. I always have a lock pass code on my phone at all times. You should also never order anything while on public wifi or wifi that does not have a lock code on it. Using public wifi is the fastest and easiest way to get your personal information stollen.

  14. Ugh, installing security software is a pain in the butt for me. I have an Android device and I’m not really a fan of installing a bunch of software that supposed to protect you. Most of the time they tend to just bog down your system and for some free versions they just throw in a bunch of ads which makes the app practically a nuisance.

  15. Thank you, I don’t think many of us are anywhere near as aware of this threat as we should be. I don’t have a smart phone, but I do have an ipod touch which I use pretty frequently to do the same things one would use a smart phone to do. I really should be more careful with things like my amazon account and other sites I have used to make purchases as all that could be leaked if I ended up being targeted.

  16. I know having the latest iOS helps, but dang Apple, every new version slows older phones down terribly. I have decided I am not going to update my 6 – unless someone can prove to me the update will not slow the phone down at all.

  17. Very helpful steps and details! I feel it is necessary, identify theft can cause much stress and pain for years and years.

  18. Another thing is to Log Out every time you go out in public. You’ll never know when your phone is going to get stolen so it’s important to log out of all your social media account. It’s a pain in the butt to have to deal with this kind of thing.

    • I agree. A friend of mine once got her phone stolen and she’s so upset about how her social media accounts could be tampered with that she deactivated every account she had and made a new one. God knows what kinds of things one can find there.

      • Never had that happen to me before or with my friends but it’s most certainly horrifying. It’s okay if the thief just wanted the phone and sell it but sometimes they tend to go full jerks and just mess around with your personal stuff.

    • Well there is the option to reset your phone if it gets stolen. That way none of your info gets into the wrong hands, while still being able to social network in public. But I can still see that you make a good point to log out, just extra security I guess.

  19. I’m not much of a fan of locking my phone because I tend to wake it up every 5 minutes and it’s a nuisance to swipe left and right and enter your password just to get it unlocked. I only use extra security whenever I’m going out but when I’m at home I turn off the lock on my phone.

    • Same here. It’s really annoying having to wake it up and swipe all the time but I’ve learned that people can’t be trusted so even if I’m in the house I lock my phone. I once caught a friend of mine messing with phone and reading messages which is not really an issue since I don’t have dirty secrets but my God is it annoying.

  20. Unfortunately one cannot install monitoring softwares on smartphones that detect outgoing connections. That way you could clearly see that an app tries to send your personal information to a hacker. It is also not a good idea to root or jailbreak your phone. Doing so you disable the phone’s security and make it easy for thieves to steal your data.Installing third party apps by changing the date on your phone could be dangerous too. Most of these workarounds come from Chinese hackers, who recently exploited Apple’s iCloud. All my information on my phone is password protected by an app that has a master password. Also I did not write what information goes where. For example my internet banking username and password is mixed in between some other random information and nobody would guess what is it for.

  21. Using public WiFi is certain death to your Androids privacy. I have heard stories of hackers setting up fake public WiFi’s for the sole purpose of stealing other peoples data. People nowadays are easily fooled by this simple trick and by doing this the hackers can get access to all your passwords.

    • Yeah it’s really scary but what’s more frightening is the fact that a lot of people are very nonchalant when it comes to the security and privacy threats on their phones and they think that it’s nothing.

  22. Bluetooth and Wifi do make the battery run out a bit quicker. I often turn off the Wifi and Bluetooth for the purpose of preserving battery life, and only now do I realize that they also happen to be one of the safety measures to prevent hackers from stealing what they could get. Interestingly, being alert to these possibilities actually set the tone to reduce said possibility, despite indifferent scenes.

  23. I loved reading these tips! Thanks! I am always trying to do everything I can to protect my personal information if I were ever to leave my phone lying around somewhere or forget it somewhere. These are all mostly tips that I haven’t previously thought of and I am going to feel comfortably protected after I get all of these in action!

  24. I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping your info to yourself. Hackers will not be able to take your information, if your information is not out there at all! I have had social media for years now, and have not been hacked because I keep my info to myself.

  25. There’s definitely some great tips here that the average user might not think about all of the time. Especially with the recent advent of public wifi everywhere, it’s definitely important to make sure that all of your phone’s information is properly secured.

  26. The given basic guidelines are helpful to protect and secure our smartphone personal data’s. Nowadays most of the smartphone manufactures include some device and applications to track and manage their devices form anywhere. This will save our device from mobile phone thief’s. But we need to keep all our important details away form unwanted websites to secure from online hackers. The antivirus security software’s will protect our smartphones from the hackers.

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