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How to make your mobile phone safer

Girl Holding a Mobile Phone

Have you ever considered how much we rely on our mobile phones? They’re just about essential for everything; from business and communication to shopping and entertainment, the list goes on. So, what if yours got damaged, lost or even stolen?

Despite this reliance, many of us are still not using them safely. Making us vulnerable to theft, damage and loss. The first thing any sensible owner must do is to get mobile phone insurance in place by calling the team of insurance specialists at Gadget Cover. The second is to read our in-depth guide on making your mobile phone safer. You’ll be pleased you did if disaster strikes!

Keep your phone locked

Let’s start with the simple stuff. If you don’t keep your home screen locked, you’re leaving the door wide open to anyone who wants to get access to your personal data. Whether it’s a simple passcode, pattern, fingerprint or even the latest facial recognition technology, it’s the most obvious solution to protect your phone and its precious contents.

When enabling an automatic screen lock you’ll be asked how long your phone must be idle before it locks. Choose the shortest period possible. That way, even if you forget, it will automatically lock before anyone can get access. This has the added benefit of saving on your battery life, too.  

Create a secure password

Have you had the same, easy password for years? Go into your settings and increase your password length now to make your phone even harder to hack. This is particularly important if it’s a work phone.

While having adequate mobile phone insurance is a great way to protect your device, don’t put it at risk by lazy phone habits. Consider creating highly secure passwords for all your apps and store them in a secure online vault. To create a secure password, you should use a mix of numbers, letters and symbols. Google recommends:

  • Avoiding short passwords
  • Making them complex and unique
  • Avoiding personal information and common words

Keep your phone’s operating system up to date

Both iOS and Android users find the frequent notifications to update their phone’s operating system more than a little annoying. But rather than ignoring them or putting them off until later it’s vital you act upon them fast. They really are for your own good and not only include performance updates but also the latest security patches and upgrades. The longer you leave the update, the longer your phone is at risk.

To check your phone is up to date, follow these simple steps.

For Android:

  • Open your phone’s Settings app
  • Scroll down to the bottom and tap System > Advanced > System update
  • You’ll see your update status. Follow any prompts on the screen

For iOS:

  • Open the Settings app and tap General
  • Tap Software Update
  • Here you’ll see your current iOS version. Check if there’s an update available and ready to install

Turn off your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi when not in use

Being able to access the internet anywhere through Wi-Fi is just one of the things we love about our phones. However, this could put your data at risk if you’re using an unsecured public Wi-Fi connection. If you leave Wi-Fi enabled on your phone when you’re not using it then it could be accessing these networks without your knowledge, making you vulnerable to attack.

Hacking Bluetooth channels is also a common tactic used by cybercriminals. Again, if Bluetooth is on by default, while it might be convenient, it could also become a safety issue. Hackers can easily mask malicious devices. That’s why you must always double-check which devices you are connecting to.

To make sure your phone doesn’t automatically try to connect using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, you can turn them off using the steps below.

For Android:

  • Open the Settings app and tap Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
  • Toggle the switch off
  • When you swipe down on the home screen the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth icon should be grey

For iOS:

  • Open the Settings app and tap Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
  • Toggle the switch off
  • When you look in the Control Centre the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth icon should be grey with a line through it

Encrypt your mobile hotspot

Using your phone as a personal Wi-Fi hotspot can make your life easier, giving you access to the internet wherever you go without the danger of using unsecured public Wi-Fi. However, if the hotspot is unprotected, it can soon cause an almighty headache.

Unencrypted hotspots could allow strangers to access data and files on your phone without your knowledge. To stop this, select the most secure hotspot encryption for your phone. According to Which?, WPA2 is the strongest data encryption option available at the moment.

Use a VPN

When you’re working from a coffee shop or other public space, stay protected by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN is essentially a private network that allows you to send and receive data over public or shared networks without unauthorised users seeing it.

It does this by assigning you a temporary IP address and hiding your true IP address from everyone else. It also hides your data via encryption so no one other than the intended recipient can read it. It simply adds yet another layer of protection between you and potential data thieves or snoopers.

Install antivirus software

Antivirus software is not just for laptops or desktop computers, your small but powerful mobile phone can benefit from it, too. These programs can protect against viruses and other malware through which hacking attempts are made. However, use a reputable brand like Norton or McAfee. In view of the impact that such attacks have on mobile banking, some banks even offer free antivirus software for customers’ phones.

Some security apps also have anti-theft features. These let you access your phone remotely through the app to help you locate your phone, block unauthorised access, or even wipe it if necessary.

Beware of dodgy downloads

With the dizzying array of mobile phone apps now available, you can download an app for pretty much any purpose. There are millions of apps on the App Store for Apple devices and Google Play for Android devices.

However, if you download from unofficial or unknown sources there could be a nasty sting in the tail. Cybercriminals often create malware that mimics trusted brands to obtain your confidential information. Always check the app’s reviews, when it was last updated and contact information of the developer.

Look out for mobile phone scams

Criminals increasingly prey on busy mobile phone users and are always looking to seize an advantage when our defences are at their weakest. Most scams either try to infect your device with a virus or trick you into handing over private data. The following are just some of the most popular types of scams to be aware of.

Virus scams – You’ll receive a worrying message telling you your phone is under threat and you need to download an antivirus app to protect you. While these often look legitimate, they’re not. Once you download the malicious software the scammers can hijack your phone and demand a ransom to give you back control.

SMS phishing – You’ll either receive an SMS link in a text which, when clicked, will infect your phone. Or they’ll use texting to try to get important personal information from you. Don’t let them, don’t reply.

Voice phishing – Here a voice message or caller will appear to be from a trusted source, but they aren’t. Instead, they’re trying to steal your identity or money, or both. From investment offers that are too good to be true to fake warnings from HM Revenue & Customs, there’s a huge variety of these around.

One-ring scams – You notice a missed call and ring back to find out what they wanted. Unfortunately, the call back will be to a premium-rate line leaving you out of pocket.

The Metropolitan Police and Ofcom have both issued useful guidance on what to do to protect yourself from such scams.

Scams can easily turn our lives upside down. This could have expensive implications if your work mobile is targeted – always protect your personal and business devices with mobile phone insurance.

Make life difficult for thieves

It’s not just your data that could be under threat, the phone itself is often a common target for thieves. But there’s plenty you can do to make it less likely your phone gets stolen. The same tech that tells you where the nearest restaurant is can also help you locate or disable the phone once it’s gone.

For Android phones:

  • Open your phone's Settings app
  • Scroll down and tap Security
  • Tap Find My Device. The toggle it to On

For iOS phones:

  • Open the Settings app
  • Tap your name
  • Tap Find My > Find my iPhone
  • Make sure Find My iPhone and Send Last Location are both turned on
  • The Find My app comes with the added bonus of tracking your device's location even if it's offline. If you want this capability, make sure to turn on the switch next to Enable Offline Finding

If you take out mobile phone insurance through Gadget Cover then we can help. If your phone is accidentally lost or stolen, we will refund the cost of unauthorised transactions made using your e-Wallet facility (up to £500). And if you’ve got some mobile accessories, we’ll replace them (up to £150) if they are lost, stolen or damaged at the same time as your gadget.

Invest in a case and screen protector

Modern mobile phones are built to last and the care that goes into their manufacture is impressive. But these incredible machines aren’t immune from damage. From being immersed in water or scratched by sand in your bag to falling out of your pocket while walking, we put our phones through a lot.

Once you’ve spent your hard-earned cash and got the best mobile phone insurance in place there’s nothing worse than to hear your phone smash on the ground! But this doesn’t have to happen. There are so many great cases and screen protectors on the market you’ll be spoilt for choice in clever ways to protect your phone from damage. Don’t delay getting your phone and its screen covered today.

Unlike some insurers, Gadget Cover even covers minor screen cracks. And if the item cannot be repaired, we will replace it.

Talk to your children

If you have children then chances are you’ve sometimes allowed them to play on your phone. Distracting them for just a few vital minutes with a game of Candy Crush can often mean you’ve that bit more time to make dinner or get the shopping in from the car. Here are some things you might want to discuss with your child before letting them use your phone:

  • Why they can't do certain things on your phone
  • Why they shouldn’t give out personal information
  • How to spot cyberbullying
  • The dangers of in-app purchases – they cost parents real money!
  • How to spot appropriate and inappropriate content
  • When it's okay to use your phone, and when it's not

If your child does eventually get their own phone, then Childline has 7 practical tips to keep them and their phone safe.

Arrange mobile phone insurance with Gadget Cover

Keeping your phone safe can sometimes feel like a full-time job! But rest assured Gadget Cover’s team of insurance specialists will always be there to find the best mobile phone insurance policy for the right price.

Policies arranged through Gadget Cover can include protection for your devices from accidental damage, liquid damage, theft, breakdown and unauthorised usage. For an extra premium, loss can also be covered. Check out our recent blog on how to spot the signs of water damage on a phone.

If you’re taking your phone abroad, cover is also automatically extended to include use of your phone anywhere in the world, up to 180 days in any one year.

We can also cover phone accessories and extend cover to your immediate family in case they lose or damage your phone.

Is it time you got mobile phone insurance?

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