Our mobile devices are today more important to us than they have ever before been in their history. While at one time they were just simple phones with nothing more than the ability to save a few text messages and numbers on their internal native software; today our mobile phones are essentially miniaturized PCs that we carry around in our pockets and purses.
If we slip in to the realm of really high end tablet-like phones, this rule applies even more thanks to all the internal capabilities and access to external third party databases that they have. Basically, your smart phone, “phablet” or tablet likely contains as much sensitive information, contacts, financial records and access to external databases as would have been common to PCs or laptops just a few short years ago.
The Increased Need for Mobile Security
Because of this, the obvious need to secure your phone as robustly as is reasonably possible becomes a pressing thing to put on your “to-do” list. For one thing, a thief who gets their hands on your device can hack it and simply start using it while you’ve just lost a pricey piece of electronic hardware. But this is the least of your worries; the real harm isn’t the loss of a nice new Samsung S4 or iPhone 5, it’s the data breaches that can occur.
With access to your phone, a savvy thief or hacker can potentially enter your online social media accounts and ruin your reputation, or they can access your email accounts and do even more reputation damage. Additionally, depending on what sorts of data you were saving in your device or what kinds of professional apps and accounts you had left open—such as banking, cloud storage, etc—you could find yourself the victim of financial fraud, ID theft and possibly even job or business ruining data loss.
So, now that we’ve established just how crucial mobile security is by looking at the ramifications of its failure, let’s see how you can actually secure your smart phone through the use of TFA and whatever other security options are available.
Before we begin, it’s worth mentioning that the idea of two factor authentication for mobile phones themselves is still poorly developed. Instead, for the time being, most phones are actually used as the end points to which TFA authentication keys get delivered for added security to some other online account or network database.
Because of this, a lot of phone security solutions do not yet involve real TFA in the commercially recognized sense; they’re more ad-hoc.
Check for Biometric and TFA Protocols
While, as we just mentioned, TFA is still not well developed on most mobile OS platforms, some devices do at least come with certain more robust security options that can in effect create an authentication level of security. For example, some Blackberry phones actually have their own two factor authentication capacity built into them through the addition of a programmable smart card that needs to be scanned to the phone through a special smart card reader. By using these phones, you need to first type in a password and then scan your smart card for verification.
Though none of the other major phone platforms have anything so robust in the form of comprehensive TFA, another soon o arrive option consists of biometric technology. Rumors are rife that both Samsung and Apple will be enabling biometric security in the form of fingerprint scanners on their next generation phones such as the iPhone 6 and post-S4 Samsung Galaxy phones. If this indeed turns out to be the case, your mobile security options will be seriously reinforced, and especially if you combine a fingerprint ID mechanism with your own manual installation of a password access screen for either your phones itself or the internal SIM card.
Other Security Procedures
Until the advent of either more widely available TFA measures or biometric security options for the latest smart phones, you can create a more limited but fairly strong security arrangement in your phone by enabling password access for both the device and the SIM card. This way, if a thief steals your phone, they will have to contend with two separate password protection platforms. Check online info for your specific OS to find out how to do both.
Another useful option is to encrypt your phones internal data as much as possible. For both Android users and iPhone owners, this is really easy to do.
In the case of Android phones, simply clicking on the settings button in the applications screen and then scrolling down to “security” options will lead you to the option of encrypting all of your phone’s data for access only through the use of a password. This option is also available for your SD card, thus making sure that all the storage space on your phone is secured.
In the case of iPhones, things get even simpler: Simply by enabling password based blocking through a login screen that activates when your phone is idle, you’re automatically encrypting all of its iMessages, mail messages, attachments stored in the memory and data from certain select applications.
Run full encryption on your device; beyond password protection, its yet another major line of defense against data theft.
A Few Final Quick Tips
- Don’t share your phone with other people unless you absolutely trust them and even then, don’t let them take it out of your sight for too long.
- Regularly back up all of your phone data remotely and purge the device periodically to prevent data clutter.
- Don’t download apps from any untrustworthy or unknown sources that you don’t recognize and make sure you regularly update exiting phone apps.
Stephan Jukic is a freelance writer who generally covers a variety of subjects relating to the latest changes in white hat SEO, mobile technology, marketing tech and digital security. He also loves to read and write about location-free business, portable business management and finance. When not busy writing or consulting on technology and digital security, he spends his days enjoying life’s adventures either in Canada or Mexico, where he spends part of the year. Connect with Stephan on LinkedIn.