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Phone privacy checks to do today

When you’ve got the power of the latest iOS or Android smartphone in your hand it’s all too easy to feel invulnerable to mere mortal concerns. Conducting high-powered business meetings, staying in constant contact with friends, and controlling your smart home remotely all with a mere swipe of the finger. However, our reliance on these machines can sometimes leave us open to harm.

Particularly when it comes to our privacy. So, if you've just bought a new or second-hand device, or haven't reviewed your security settings for a while, take a look at our Gadget Cover phone privacy checks to do today. It could save you a lot of pain in the long run.

Making time to ensure you're protected against the latest threats is time well spent. But don’t forget the best thing you can do to protect yourself from the financial fallout of phone accidents or theft is to get specialist mobile insurance in place.

iPhone passcode

Check 1: Is your passcode secure?

As smartphones have grown more and more sophisticated so have the security measures designed to protect your privacy. Biometric access using your face or fingerprint is a very popular and convenient way for manufacturers to help boost your phone’s security. However, when it comes down to it, if you don’t have a strong passcode then no number of fancy bells and whistles is going to keep you secure.

Whether you use a fingerprint scanner or facial recognition software, you’ll still need a decent passcode, and the stronger the passcode the better. It really is the cornerstone of your security system. So, what are you waiting for? Go into Settings and increase your passcode length now to make it even harder to crack. It’s also recommended to change it every few months for additional security against shoulder-surfers.

While you’re at it, review your passwords for your Apple ID or Google accounts. If you’ve fallen into lazy habits, now might be the time to up your game. Remember:

  • Avoid short passwords.
  • Make them complex and unique.
  • Avoid personal information and common words.

Check 2: Are you downloading apps from a reputable source?

It probably goes without saying you should only be downloading apps from reputable sources such as the App Store or Google Play. But we all know how easy it is to get into bad habits.

The main benefit of this is that apps are reviewed by the store’s tech whizzes to make sure they’re free from malware and any other nasties before they get added. Another benefit is the protection doesn’t just stop at the point of download. Many phones continue to regularly scan apps installed to make sure they’re still safe for your device. If you download apps directly from third party websites then they might not be able to promise the same kind of protection.

The vast majority of apps for iPhones can only be installed through the App Store and you have to work hard to get around that protection. However, for those running Android it’s much easier to accidentally download something nasty. To avoid this from happening, go to Settings > Security and disable the ‘Unknown Sources’ option. This means that your phone will only allow apps from trusted sources to be installed.

Check 3: What permissions have you given apps?

Whatever flavour of phone or operating system you use, these marvellous machines contain a vast amount of information about you. And from banking log-ins and medical information to private WhatsApp messages and family photos, you’ll want to keep much of this information strictly private. However, every time you download and install a new app, you’ll be asked how much access to give these apps to your information.

In general, to get the best out of most apps you’ll need to grant them access to things like your files, your camera, and maybe GPS (to provide location-specific content). While some apps may even need access to your contacts and social media profile information - the list goes on and on!

Obviously, if you restrict everything these apps can have access to then you’re not going to have much fun. But that doesn’t mean you should just agree to every app's request for access. After all, app developers need to make money somehow, and many do so by selling your information to advertisers. So, it's probably understandable they want as much access as they can get. For instance, does an astronomy app really need to know who your best friends are and your favourite Netflix shows?

Both Android and iOS recognise they need to protect phone users from some of this, so there’s now plenty of privacy controls so you can limit access to your personal data.

For iOS, go to Settings > Privacy and check out some of the latest iOS 15 privacy settings available right now. For even more on what iOS 15 can do for you, check out our recent article.

Users of the latest Android 12 update can take advantage of Google’s shiny new Privacy Dashboard. Open Settings > Privacy > Privacy Dashboard and you’ll be able to see how different apps are accessing data on your device and clamp down if necessary.

Remember, if you don't like the access an app is requesting, simply look around for a similar app that requires less access. Just like with phone insurance from Gadget Cover, there’s bound to be one that suits your requirements.

Check 4: Have you installed a security app?

Just as your laptop or desktop computer should be protected by antivirus or other security software, so should your phone. Whether you prefer iOS or Android, and no matter how secure your manufacturer says it is, your phone is vulnerable to attack if you don’t protect it correctly.

There are plenty of anti-virus and anti-malware apps available for every type of device, but be sure to use a reputable brand like Norton or McAfee. While anti-virus and anti-malware software is important, a firewall app might also come in handy to stop apps sending or receiving information you're not aware of. The helpful band of tech experts over at TechRadar have prepared a rundown of some of the best firewall software currently on the market to suit any gadget.

Phone apps

Check 5: Is your lock screen secure?

Lock screens have been around almost as long as computers, but even so not everyone uses them correctly. You might feel that typing out a password every time you want to check your phone is a pain, but it's well worth it to protect your privacy. After all, if you haven’t securely locked your screen, anyone picking it up can access everything on there! From your photos and social media accounts to shopping apps and banking details.

And remember, those wanting to gain access to your phone can be pretty sneaky. For example, if you use a pattern to unlock your phone then you might be in for a nasty surprise. Take a moment and really look at your phone's screen when the light hits it. Notice anything? Sometimes the pattern is there for all to see, written out in screen smudges! Never trust your privacy to anything less than a passcode or password.

But even if your screen is locked, did you know that others may still be able to gain access to parts of your phone without your permission? Have a look through your phone settings and check what tools can be accessed even when the phone is locked. You might be surprised at just how much someone else could see!

Remember passcodes and other security measures aren’t there just to keep criminals at bay. Friends who enjoy playing pranks or inquisitive family members can all cause us problems if we haven’t locked our phones.

Check 6: Have you set up the Find My feature?

If you haven't set up these features for your Android or iOS phone, then you're missing out on one of the most powerful (and free) ways to protect your privacy. If your phone gets lost or stolen, the Find My feature can help you pinpoint its exact location using GPS. You might even be able to disable or completely wipe the phone to stop your private data from falling into the wrong hands. That way, even if they somehow manage to get access to your phone, there won't be anything left for them to use against you.

We’ve got more details on how to turn on this feature and a whole lot more on how to make your mobile phone safer today. Take a read and bump up your security before it’s too late.

Taking out phone insurance through Gadget Cover comes with a whole range of helpful features. For example, 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).

Check 7: What public networks are you using?

When you’re out and about and want to get access to the internet you’ll often need to start eating into your data. Unfortunately, data plans can be expensive, and no one wants to waste their precious megabytes if they can get away with it. From pubs, cafes and restaurants to local libraries and cinemas many places now offer free internet access for their customers.

However, be warned. Whenever you connect to a public network, your privacy is under threat. Any amateur hacker or nosey parker could use that public Wi-Fi network to spy on what you’re doing. This might not matter if you’re just checking the latest footy scores. But it’s a different matter if you’re checking your bank balance or buying some Christmas presents while you wait. Perhaps leave these activities until you get back to the safety of your private home network.

That said, if you simply must access private data while away from home or work, consider investing in a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. You might be wondering what a VPN is?  If you’re not up-to-date on the latest tech then take a look at our recent Gadget Cover blog to find out more.

VPN

Check 8: Are you following the Wi-Fi etiquette rules?

Sometimes you’ll only have yourself to blame for privacy breaches on your phone. Follow our top five Wi-Fi etiquette rules to make sure you don’t end up in hot water.

Check 9: Are you listening to your manufacturer?

Every time a new phone is unveiled or the latest software update becomes ready for download, the more features manufacturers add to these incredible machines. Unfortunately, the more we rely on them, and the more private information we trust them to store, the more vulnerable we can become to privacy breaches.

Fortunately, manufacturers are now providing plenty of easy-to-use guidance on how best to secure your devices. A very useful source of information is the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). This organization was set up by the government to make the UK the safest place to live and work online. The NCSC has plenty of information and advises you to check in every few months with your phone manufacturer to make sure you’re still protected. 

Another useful check you should perform is to see if your device is still supported by your phone manufacturer. Consumer champion Which? has a device support checker tool that’s well worth your time.

Check 10: Have you arranged phone insurance with Gadget Cover?

Keeping your phone safe is probably the most important thing you can do to keep your privacy intact. That’s why Gadget Cover’s team of insurance specialists will always be there to find mobile phone insurance that suits your needs.

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, your phone can also be covered against loss.

If you’re going 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 (up to £150) and extend cover to your immediate family in case they lose or damage your phone.

If you haven’t done so already, don’t you think it’s time you got phone insurance?

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