Do you ever give much thought to smartphone security? The smartphone is quickly eclipsing the PC for many common small business tasks that need to be accomplished on the road, such as email, social networking, Web browsing, editing or creating documents.
But smartphones' growing popularity also increases their vulnerability; not only because smartphones are small and easily to lose, but also because they present a big target for same kinds of security threats that plague PCs -- viruses and other malware.
A recent smartphone security study by the Ponemon institute -- commissioned by security software vendor AVG -- found that 84 percent of respondents use the same smartphone for both business and personal use. This gives you a sense of the amount and kind of data a typical smartphone can contain, and why it needs to be protected.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep your smartphone data safe. Read on for 10 smart ways to improve your Android, BlackBerry, iPhone or Windows Phone 7 smartphone security.
1. Screen Lock Your Phone
If you leave your smartphone unattended for a while -- or worse, if it's lost or stolen (more on that later) -- you don't want to make it easy for a passerby to rifle through its contents. Setting your smartphone to require a PIN code or password for access after an inactive period is a relatively easy way to thwart this kind of opportunistic unauthorized access. AVG's survey indicates that fewer than half of smartphone owners use this kind of lock on their phones.
How to screen lock your smartphone:
Note: the device-specific steps listed in this article may vary somewhat depending on the OS version you have.
Android: Go to Settings > Location & security > Set up screen lock. The timeout delay is configured separately, under Settings > Display. Android also offers a connect-the-dots swipe pattern you can use in lieu of a PIN or password, but it might leave telltale smudges on your screen.
BlackBerry: Go to Options > Security Options > General Settings >Password
iPhone: Go to Settings > General > Passcode lock
Windows Phone 7: Go to Settings > Lock & Wallpaper.
2. Enable Remote Locate, Lock and Wipe
Can't find your phone? You may have simply misplaced it somewhere around the office, or inadvertently left it at your last meeting. Then again, maybe someone nicked it when you weren't looking. In this situation, software -- or a service -- with the capability to remotely locate, lock, and wipe your phone might help you retrieve it. Barring that, you'll have peace of mind knowing that even though someone's got his mitts on your phone, your data can still be protected.
Remote location (which works primarily through GPS) has limitations: it won't tell you that your phone can be found in the 3rd floor bathroom of 123 Main St, but it will provide an approximate location that should be enough to let you determine whether or not the phone is somewhere you've recently been.
Especially if you determine that your phone has been pinched, you'll appreciate the capability to lock it with a PIN or password (even if you hadn't previously enabled the aforementioned lock feature), and you'll typically have the option to display a customized on-screen message (e.g. with return/reward info). If you determine that reuniting with your phone isn't in the cards, you can wipe its data clean with a remote command.
How to remote locate, lock and wipe your smartphone:
Android: No built-in remote locate-and-lock feature here, but there several apps can do the job, such as Where's my Droid.
BlackBerry: Download RIM's free BlackBerry Protect from the app store.
iPhone: If you have an iPhone 4 (with iOS 4.2 or later), you can take advantage of Find my iPhone feature offered free through Apple's MobileMe service. (Here are the setup instructions). If you own a third-gen iPhone, you'll need a paid MobileMe subscription ($99 a year) to use Find my iPhone.
Windows 7: Go to Settings > Find my phone to turn on the remote locate/lock/wipe feature, and then head over to windowsphone.live.com.