By Dino Giacomazzi
One of my favorite pranks is to secretly take my friends’ phones and set the alarm to go off every morning at 3 a.m. If I have time, I pick the most obnoxious ring tone available. While this might seem like an awful thing to do, I view it as teaching an important lesson.
The lesson is about security. If someone can get their hands on your phone to play a joke, imagine what might happen if that person was less scrupulous. One of the benefits of having a smartphone is the easy access it provides to information. That can include details about the surprise party you are planning for your wife, but much of it is sensitive information such as business records, online store access and bank accounts.
Despite the risks involved, I often see people leaving their phone unattended on a restaurant table or the seat of their chair. Would you leave your wallet on the bar while you go off to the bathroom?
Remember that a smartphone is a computer and is susceptible to the same security problems. Spam, viruses, malware and phishing scams are a few examples.
Security in the digital age is complicated, but there are a few easy things you can do to protect yourself from would-be bandits:
- Password-protect your phone. Most digital thievery is not done through sophisticated hacking. It’s done by physically accessing a computer or phone that is unprotected. If my friends had their phones locked, they would sleep a lot better at night, figuratively and literally.
- Set your phone to automatically lock the screen after a few minutes of inactivity and require a password to unlock it.
- Encrypt your data. Most smartphones have encryption built in, and there is third-party software that works as well. If your phone is stolen or lost, these will prevent people from being able to access your files.
- Check your phone bill for unusual charges. Some apps or malware can trick you into authorizing charges on your phone bill that you don’t know about.
- Always check web addresses. When entering sensitive data into a web browser, make sure the web address is authentic. Scammers often send e-mail posing as a major bank and asking you to sign in for a secure message. Clicking the link takes you to a site that looks like the bank’s, but once you enter your user name and password, the scammers have everything they need to access your account.
- Install remote find and wipe software. Both iPhone and Android have software that will track your phone if it is stolen or lost and allow you to wipe out all the information remotely.
There is a lot more to know about digital security, but if you follow these six easy tips, the only noise your phone will be making at 3 a.m. will be for a call from the barn. Take your phone with you—it can be used as a flashlight.
Dino Giacomazzi is the fourth generation to manage his family’s dairy farm near Hanford, Calif. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Consider installing security and anti-virus software.
- Be careful when allowing third-party unsigned applications to access your personal information.
- Do not click on links if they are unsolicited or look suspicious.
- Update your phone’s operating system regularly.
- Avoid online banking when using unsecured public Wi-Fi.
- Back up your data regularly.
- Reset your phone to factory settings before selling, giving or recycling.
- Apply these tips to your desktop, laptop and tablet computer as well.
- March 2012