If you store sensitive information on your smartphone, losing track of it could spell disaster. 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.
You can panic if someone steals your smartphone. Who knows what they could do with that information? There are pictures, bank cards and email. The Consumer Reports National Research Center finds that almost 40 percent of smartphone users don't take actions to secure their phones, such as backing up their data or simply setting a screen lock.
Even if you do lock, experts say a tech-savvy thief can quickly crack certain four-digit passcodes. Consumer Reports said it's far safer to set a longer code that includes letters and symbols. Android phones let you do it by going to settings, but each phone is a little different.
With iPhones it's even trickier. Under "settings," tap "general" and "passcode lock." Check that the "simple passcode" is turned off. Then tap "turn passcode on," and you can enter your longer passcode.
Consumer Reports said there are other smartphone security risks. For example, some apps ask for permission to do too much, including a simple flashlight app. It wants to know your location and information about your phone calls. Consumer Reports found only one-third of those surveyed ever turn off location tracking. Some apps need to know your location to give directions, for example. But you don't need to have location tracking on all the time.
Malicious software isn't as common on your smartphone as on your computer. But the problem is growing, so Consumer Reports recommends getting your apps only from reputable sources. Android users should stick with Amazon's Appstore or Google Play. For iPhone users, Apple's App Store is the only source for apps, and it's reputable, too.
Taking a few basic precautions can secure sensitive data. And kids need protection, too. The survey projects at least 5 million preteens have a smartphone of their own. For more information log on to www.ConsumerReports.org.
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