When you consider that the mobile phone penetration rate in the U.S. is expected to go from 77.1% in 2012, to 82.1% in 2018, and to 82.7% in 2020, you can begin to appreciate the importance that people continue to place on cellphones and smartphones. Clearly, the number of mobile users only continues to rise year over year.
Another source adds that Americans, in addition to widely adopting mobile phones, are also using various other information devices. For example, consider the following statistics:
- Around 50% of adults in the U.S. own a tablet computer; and
- Approximately 20% of U.S. adults own e-reader devices
With so many people now using one or more mobile device for everything from completing assignments for work, conducting banking transaction, sending and receiving email, texting and instant messaging, and more, it’s no wonder that bad actors are targeting mobile devices.
This doesn’t mean that the battle is lost, however, since there are strategies for data security and removal that can safeguard mobile devices. But whether you use your mobile device for work or play, one thing’s for certain, simply being more careful can make a big difference.
Consider, for instance, that 41% of all breaches stem not from hacking and malware but from the loss of mobile devices. This suggests that simply being careful and not forgetting your smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device at the coffee shop, library, or restaurant will go a long way towards helping you to avoid problems that can arise if your data is compromised.
Continue reading for a look at data security and removal on your mobile device. This will include, firstly, looking at how to secure the data on your phone and, secondly, focusing on how to erase any unwanted data so that there are not footprints for hackers to track.
Secure Data on Mobile Device
Here are some practical things to consider to protect your mobile device in the event that it ever falls into the wrong hands.
Update Operating System
Are you one of those people who tends to delay upgrading to the newest operating system for your mobile device? Well, nip that bad habit in the bud. Operating system updates don’t only include interface tweaks or added features, but also have fixes or patches for security problems that were present in the previous operating system version. If you delay upgrading, your data could be at risk since hackers may exploit the problems in older operating systems.
Choose Apps Wisely
It might be fun to have the latest must-have apps, but you have to be selective if security is your goal. The problem is that some apps have security vulnerabilities that in-the-know hackers can take advantage of to steal your data and to potentially commit identity theft. According to one source, Americans are much more likely to find themselves on the receiving end of of ID theft than are people from other nations.
In 2016, over 791 million identities in the U.S. were stolen, which put the country at the number one spot. If there are apps on your mobile device that you no longer use, get rid of them. For the same reasons that you need to upgrade to the latest operating system, you should install updates for any apps you have on your mobile device.
Wi Fi Considerations
You’ve probably already heard that it’s dangerous to connect to public wi-fi networks if your mobile device isn’t properly protected with antivirus software. Surfing while unprotected means that virtually anyone can see and potentially capture your data.
It’s also best to stick to your wireless carrier’s data plan when you need to carry out any sensitive transactions that involve your personal information. Otherwise, use a virtual private network, or VPN, which is an application that encrypts your data when you access a public network.
You should set up your mobile device so that it automatically locks down when left unattended for a while. When this happens, you’ll have to enter a short pass code in order to resume using your phone. Also be sure to password-protect apps that require personal information such as e-retailing or banking apps. Doing this will give your mobile device an extra layer of protection.
Lost, Stolen Phones Should Be Wiped Clean
If you happen to misplace your phone or if it gets stolen, you could be in a lot of trouble should your phone not be password protected. If you haven’t already done so, download the Find My iPhone app or the Android Device Manager app, depending on what model phone you have. You can use these apps to track your smartphone’s whereabouts and wipe it clean — eradicating the data — from a remote location.
Delete Data on Mobile Device
While the wide variety of mobile devices available is a good thing for consumers, this diversity means that there is no one way to remove data from smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. What follows is an example of what to do for mobile devices with iOS and Android operating systems.
If your Apple mobile device has or can support iOS 5 or later, then it offers hardware encryption when you enable a pass code. So, should you use the following steps to wipe clean your mobile device, the encryption key will be overwritten, and this will make it nearly impossible for someone to access any data that had been on it before.
- First things first — you should start out by unpairing other devices, such as an Apple Watch, from your smartphone or tablet. After this, switch off the Find My iPhone feature. If your mobile device has iOS 10.2 or prior operating system, head to the “Settings” app, click on “iCloud”, and click on “Find My iPhone”. Be prepared to key in your Apple ID password should the system request it. If your mobile device uses iOS 10.3 or later, select “Settings”, click on Your Name, click on “iCloud”, and then choose “Find My iPhone”.
- Next, sign out of services such the Apple Store and iMessage. Head over to “Settings”, click on “Messages”, and click the iMessage feature. Then go to “Settings”, click on “iTunes & App Store”, click on “Apple ID email address”, and click on “Sign Out”.
- Now sign out of iCloud. You will need to go to “Settings”, click on “iCloud”, and click on the “Sign Out” button. If your mobile device uses iOS 10.3 or later, you need to head to “Settings”, click on Your Name, and then click on “Sign Out”. If your smartphone or tablet operates using iOS 7, then click on the “Delete Account” section.
- In order to trigger the mobile device wipe process, click on “Settings”, click on “General”, click on “Reset”, and select “Erase All Content and Settings”. Then you need to confirm your choice.
- Head over to appleid.apple.com and be sure to remove your mobile device’s serial number from your account profile.
If your Android mobile device runs the 5.0 Lollipop operating system or later, it is equipped with a factory reset protection that will render your mobile device unusable by anyone else after a reset. This occurs because other people won’t be able to perform an activation if they can’t enter the Google account and password that you had previously used.
Before selling your smartphone or tablet to someone else, however, you must deactivate factory reset protection. Should you have an Android device running a previous Android operating system version without factory reset protection, you can skip the first three steps that follow.
- Before starting, ensure that screen locks are deactivated. To do so, go to “Settings”, click on “Security” or “Lock Screen Security”, select “Screen Lock”, and then select “None”.
- Disassociate your mobile device from your Google account by going to “Settings”, clicking “Users and Accounts”, clicking on your account, and then removing it.
- If you own a Samsung smartphone or tablet, be sure to disassociate your Samsung account from your mobile device.
- Use the factory reset function to wipe your mobile device. For the best results, encrypt your mobile device before you do the factory reset.
One More Thing…
In addition to following the steps above to protect or to remove data from your mobile device, be sure to remove the SIM card and any other storage cards before trading or selling your old mobile device. These act as the “brain” of your mobile device, storing a wealth of information.
There is no silver bullet that will guarantee that you won’t be targeted successfully by hackers and other bad actors, but by following the aforementioned recommendations, you’ll significantly reduce the odds of your becoming a statistic.