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How to Protect Your Phone’s Valuable Data

The loss of a smartphone wouldn’t be so bad if it ended with merely a bit of embarrassment. Since many people now use smartphones for online banking, travel reservations, and storing sensitive business documents, however, a great deal of very private data ends up on the device.

Much of this data is safe behind password-protected applications, but a large portion of it dangles out in the open in e-mail messages, text documents, images, and other files.

What are smartphone users doing to protect the precious data in their pricey handsets?

Apparently not much, according to some industry experts. And that’s surprising, given the number of apps and phone features available for safeguarding data. According to experts, you’re 15 times more likely to lose your cell phone than your laptop computer.

Another danger: A lost smartphone may soon be the high-tech equivalent of a lost wallet.

New wireless-transaction services will soon allow a smartphone to replace cash or a credit card at a store’s point of purchase. Though the convenience of cell-phone-enabled purchases may be attractive, the danger of losing a cash-enabled phone to a thief is obvious.

Lost or Stolen?

Phones are often lost by accident, but waves of cell phone thefts are nothing new in major cities. Though crime stats in New York have declined in recent years, cell phones and iPods lead the way among the types of items stolen. Transit authorities now make regular announcements–in addition to posting signs on platforms and in trains–warning riders not to flash electronic gadgets unnecessarily.

Are You Protected?

Locking a smartphone’s screen with a password offers a good first layer of protection–a simple process that, unfortunately, phone owners often fail to undergo.

The next layer could come in the form of an add-on phone-tracking application such as Microsoft’s free My Phone for Windows Mobile or Apple’s Find My iPhone app, which works on iPhones and iPads but requires a $99 annual subscription to Apple’s MobileMe data-syncing and backup service. The $15 Theft Aware for Android is one of several apps that can help you locate your missing Droid.

What else can you do to protect your cell phone’s data?

  1. Don’t store sensitive information in an easily readable form.
  2. If you use a password to encrypt or lock down your phone data, don’t forget the password. Data-protection programs have no “back doors,” and the only recourse you’ll have is to reset your phone–which erases all the data.
  3. Back up your phone data using your carrier’s Web service or an app that lets you back up to a computer. This step will allow you to get up to speed with your replacement handset quickly.
  4. To prevent thefts, be aware of your surroundings. Don’t put your phone down and walk away even a short distance, such as from your table at a coffee shop to the counter where the napkins are.
  5. Cell phone insurance is a good thing, but it replaces only the hardware, not your data.
  6. In summary, treat your cell phone as a trusted friend–keep it close at hand, since so much of your life is in it.

adapted from pcworld.com

  • 08/16/2010
  • IT