Protecting phone privacy

When it comes to mobile data, very little of what's stored on a phone is secure or private. It was recently revealed that some apps have been accessing phone contacts without user permission, and that Google may be watching your mobile web browsing history. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com gives tips on how to limit your exposure.


Many people don't password-protect their phone, and those who do tend to pick an easy code like 1234. That leaves all information on the phone wide open to anyone who comes across it. Pick a strong phone password that uses letters and numbers. You can also use your settings or an app to set up a remote wipe of all the data on your phone if it's lost or stolen.

Threats typically targeting computers -- such as viruses -- are increasingly focusing on mobile operating systems. Make sure your mobile operating system is using the latest software, which is usually updated to protect against such threats. Don't click on unknown links in their mobile web browser, which could result in malicious software downloading to the phone. And consider downloading free mobile security apps that monitor for problems.

Read reviews and compare options before downloading any apps. App stores are the first line of defense, weeding out many of those that contain malicious code designed to steal information from or damage your phone. But they're not foolproof. Also check monthly phone bills. A common tactic for malicious apps is to rack up bills for premium text messages.

Consumers who have to store sensitive information on their phone, such as confidential work documents or personal health records, should take the extra step of using an encryption program for storage. The inexpensive apps protect files with encryption and passwords. Data can also be wirelessly and securely synced with other devices, in the event one needs to wipe a phone.

App stores are adding more disclosures, requiring developers to ask permission to access various data on your phone. Consumers will recognize them as the pop-ups that appear when they open a new app for the first time. Read those, and skip apps that ask for too much access. You can also use phone setting to toggle off some apps' access to things like the phone's location.

For more information on protecting your cell phone information and other consumer tips click here.

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