Keep data safe in case your smartphone gets lost, stolen, damaged

May 7, 2013 8:32:09 PM PDT
Many of us store sensitive and personal information on our smartphones. A just-released survey by Consumer Reports projects more than 7 million smartphone owners had a phone that was lost, stolen or ruined in the last year.

It's anyone's worst nightmare. Losing or having your smartphone stolen could spell disaster. However, a few key moves can go a long way in keeping your data safe.

Amanda Sutton panicked when someone stole her smartphone.

"Who knows what they could do with that information? I mean, there's pictures and bank cards and e-mails," Sutton said.

Unfortunately, Sutton hadn't taken steps to protect her personal information. She's not alone, according to a nationally representative survey done by Consumer Reports.

"Nearly 40 percent of smartphone users don't take actions to secure their phones, like backing up their data or simply setting a screen lock," said Simon Slater with Consumer Reports.

Even if you do lock your device, experts say a tech-savvy thief can quickly crack certain four-digit passcodes.

Simply setting a longer code that includes letters and symbols can help. Android phones let you do it by going to settings, but then each phone is a little different.

On one, "security" then "screen lock" gets you to the password reset. But on this Android phone, you'll tap "lock screen" and "screen lock" in order to change your password.

With iPhones, tap "general" under "settings" and the hit "passcode lock." Check that the "simple passcode" is turned off. Then, tap "turn passcode on," and now you can enter your longer passcode.

Consumer Reports says another security risk is apps that ask for permission to do too much, like a simple flashlight app that wants to know your location and information about your phone calls.

Malicious software isn't as common on your smartphone as on your computer, but the problem is growing. It's recommended to get your apps from reputable sources. Android users should stick with Amazon's app store or Google Play. For iPhone users, Apple's app store is the only source for apps; and it's reputable, too.

Another thing to consider if your iPhone is lost or stolen: you have the option to remotely wipe your phone clean before anyone views your personal information. You can do it though Apple's iCloud. Click here for more information on how that's done.

Find Jeff on Facebook at ABC13JeffEhling or on Twitter at @jeffehlingabc13


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