When talking to colleagues and friends, it appears that folks do not understand how their smartphones work and the data that can be accessed through them. This prompted me to again give basic steps that can be used to protect personal information that can be accessed, legitimately and in an unauthorized manner through the settings on their smartphones.

  1. Implement the longest passcode possible (not just four digits) and set the passcode to pop up in the least amount of time. Use a passcode that is difficult to guess—that means, don’t use 12345 or your birthdate.
  2. Eliminate the ability to sign in to applications or websites through a social media account. By signing up through a social media account, that company and every other company that it shares your information with across platforms is tracking you, collecting your data, accessing your information, and selling it. More importantly, if one of those social media accounts is hacked, all of them are compromised.
  3. Disable auto-connect to public wifi.  Do not use public wifi unless you are using a VPN or other secure connection to access sensitive data. Hackers are able to get access to unsecure public wifi sites and your information can be compromised.
  4. Turn off location based services when not using the app. In Privacy Settings, keep location based services off when not using the app and frequently look to see which apps have requested access to location based services. In addition, turn off the location tracking when using social media sites or other websites.
  5. Limit access to your microphone and camera. If you have your microphone and camera on at all times, all of the apps that you have given access to the microphone and camera have access to conversations and everywhere you are at all times, whether you are using the app or not. Hackers are able to hack into the apps that you have allowed access to your camera and microphone. These can be adjusted in your Privacy settings on your phone. Frequently check these settings and which apps you have given permission to use them, and turn them on only while using the app.
  6. Adjust privacy settings on social media accounts, including frequently clearing the permissions settings. Remove apps and sites that you do not use so they stop collecting your data.

Checking the privacy settings on your social media accounts and your smartphone frequently is good cyber hygiene and doing so will surprise you at how many apps are and have been collecting your data. Securing your smartphone and being cautious about public wifi are basic measures you can put in place to protect yourself from compromise.