Is your smartphone secure? Tips to keep your information safe

Dec 12, 2012
The proliferation of smartphones--70 million are lost each year--heightens the importance of users following a few basic security steps to protect data.

With 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide—that's about 87 percent of the world population—and an even higher percentage of users estimated on campuses, Indiana University has embarked on a mobile security campaign to heighten awareness about the tools available to safeguard users and their products.

"Because mobile devices are so popular, compact and convenient, they are at high risk of loss or theft," said Eric Cosens, IU deputy information policy officer. "In fact, industry sources say that one laptop is stolen every 53 seconds, and 70 million smartphones are lost every year. We want users of mobile devices to know that it's easy to protect your personal data from criminal activity if your device is lost or stolen."

Research has shown that about half of all store passwords, personal information and on their devices. However, by following a few easy steps provided through resources at IU, faculty, students, staff and others can substantially lower risks and increase safeguards on mobile devices, he added.

"We recognize the proliferation of on campus and in our communities," IU information security officer Andrew Korty said. "But by following a few basic security tips, like setting a or passcode, or configuring your device to conduct an automatic data wipe after a specific number of failed passcode entries, you can significantly increase your protection."

The top risk to smartphones is outright physical theft of the device since criminals have a much tougher time gaining administrative access to devices not in their physical control. But even if unapproved administrative access is a worry, additional protections can be taken.

Users can enable data encryption to prevent criminals from reading data by extracting the memory; Bluetooth can and should be disabled when the device is not in use so as to reduce risk of intrusive hacking attacks; and GPS can be disabled when not in use so the device, unbeknownst to the user, is not transmitting location data (although some GPS-enabled apps and services can help find lost or stolen phones).

Visit IU Mobile and its Mobile Device Security page for tips and advice on protecting devices. Instructions on how to conduct remote data wipes and auto-wiping, how to configure devices, what to do if a device is stolen and how to choose a secure PIN can be found by visiting Indiana University Information Technology Service's Knowledge Base mobile device data protection page.

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