Top 10 Smartphone Security Tips - Page 2

By Joseph Moran | Posted April 19, 2011

3. Backup or Sync Your Data Frequently

We hope you never find yourself missing a smartphone or having to issue a remote data self-destruct, but if you do, you'll want to be sure your phone's data exists somewhere else. The same is true in the event your device becomes incapacitated due to physical damage or some other malfunction. Whatever the case, having a backup of your data is critical.

Depending on the smartphone, you may have the option to make a comprehensive backup of your device to a computer, or at least maintain a redundant copy of the most critical data and settings by syncing with online storage (a.k.a "the cloud) -- either via a vendor-provided service or a third-party app. (You can't generally backup the complete contents of your smartphone online due to bandwidth and storage limitations.)

How to backup or sync your smartphone data:

Android: There's currently no option for a soup-to-nuts backup, but Android smartphones running version 2.2 and above have the capability to back up device settings and application data to Google servers. (Third-party app data may or may not be included in the backup, depending on whether or not the developer takes advantage of the feature.

Android's backup option should be on by default, but you can check by going to Settings > Privacy > Back up my data. In addition, the nature of Google's services means that most of the ones you use on an Android device, e.g. Gmail, Contacts, Calendar, etc., are automatically kept in sync for you.

BlackBerry: You can backup a BlackBerry device from the BlackBerry Desktop software. The BlackBerry Protect app/service provides online backup of device settings along with bookmarks, calendar, contacts and text messages.

iPhone: iTunes creates a backup each time you plug in your iPhone to sync content. If you're willing to ante up MobileMe's $99 annual price tag (no free ride for iPhone 4 owners here, though there is a 60-day trial), the service will syncs key data both with online storage and with any Mac and/or PC you choose.

Windows Phone 7: As of this writing, Windows Phone 7 doesn't offer a way to do a phone backup via the companion Zune desktop software (though this is reportedly coming soon), but it does let you sync certain data and file types with a Windows Live account.

(Third-party backup apps available for some of the platforms often provide additional features, such as the capability to back up text messages or call histories.)

4. Apply Operating System Updates

From time-to-time, your smartphone OS vendor, hardware manufacturer or mobile carrier will make operating system updates available for your device. Although these updates are usually promoted as providing new feature x or y that you may or may not be interested in, they typically carry security-related improvements as well, so it's a good idea to apply updates regularly.

How to apply operating system updates:

Android: Go to Settings > About phone > System updates. If one is available, you'll have the opportunity to download it OTA (over-the-air).

BlackBerry: Connect your device to your computer, then visit the BlackBerry Update page and click on the Check for Updates button.

iPhone: Connect to your computer and run iTunes, which will notify you whether an update is available.

Windows Phone 7: Your phone should notify you when an update is available, though to install it you'll need to connect to your PC running the Zune software.

5. Turn Off Bluetooth Discovery Mode

People often leave a smartphone's Bluetooth discovery mode turned on at all times (sometimes it's on by default), but you should disable discovery when you're not trying to pair a device. Failure to do so will continuously advertise your phone's existence to other Bluetooth-equipped devices nearby (albeit within Bluetooth's limited range of about 30 feet), which can result in an unauthorized connection to the phone.

In fact, according to AVG's survey, a paltry 10 percent of smartphone owners turn off their mobile device's Bluetooth discovery feature when it's not in use.

How to turn off Bluetooth discovery mode:

Android: Go to Settings > Wireless and networks > Bluetooth settings > Discoverable, and make sure it's not checked.

BlackBerry: Go to Options > Bluetooth, then click the BlackBerry logo (Menu) button. Choose Options, set Discoverable to No, press the BlackBerry logo button again, and then choose Save.

iPhone: You can't explicitly turn off the Bluetooth discovery, but the iPhone is only discoverable when you're on the Bluetooth settings page – Settings >General > Bluetooth.

Windows Phone 7: As with the iPhone, Windows Phone 7 devices are only discoverable when you're on the Bluetooth settings page at Settings > Bluetooth.



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