No one is immune to hackers these days. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to prevent hackers from accessing your phone and all the data that’s stored. Protect your smartphone and all data on it from digital thieves, spies, and criminals with the tips in this carefully put-together post.
You can protect your phone from hackers by following these 15 tips:
- Keep the software up to date
- Use fingerprint or password access
- Keep your cellphone locked when not in use
- Only install apps from the iOS or Android store
- Be conscious about which permissions an app needs
- Track and lock your phone from a distance
- Make backups from all your data
- Be careful with auto-login
- Use two-factor authentication
- Turn of notifications on locked screens
- Keep your essential apps and documents in a secure folder
- Turn of AirDrop and Bluetooth in public areas
- Use a VPN when on a public wifi
- Don’t download random files or apps
- Review what data is accessible through your phone
- Install security software on your cellphone
Let’s look at every individual tip and see what you can do to make your smartphone secure.
Beware, things change, hackers become more innovative, and caution is always advised. Make sure you back up all your smartphone data, including your images, so that you won’t lose all your precious memories and work. Be extra careful with bank and credit card apps.
➤ This post may contain affiliate links, purchases made through affiliate links may provide a commission for smartphone photography at no extra cost. Of course, all opinions remain our own.
1 Keep the software of your smartphone up to date
The first step to protecting your phone from hackers is keeping all the software updated. To make this step easy, turn on auto-updates.
You can update your phone’s software by:
- Going to settings
- Selecting ‘system and updates’
- Tapping ‘software updates
- And installing now.
- There’s also an option to toggle the ‘check automatically’ box to on. Consequently, your phone will automatically scan for and download updates.
These steps can differ for the type of phone you have or the operating system you use.
2 Use fingerprint or passcode access
Make sure you use some password-protected access to your phone. When thieves have physical access to your cellphone, it is way too easy to get to your personal information. In addition, your email, WhatsApp, and Google Drive may be full of personal information.
Both Android and iOS will have an option to use a 5 or 6 digit passcode, facial recognition, or fingerprint access. Although neither of these options is foolproof, they make it a lot harder for a thieve to gain access.
Beware of smart-lock features! Please read all about it in paragraph 8.
3 Keep your cellphone locked when not in use
Make sure your phone is locked when it is not in use. You can do so actively by using the designated button on your phone or selecting a short ‘sleep’ time as displayed in the image below.
You can change the ‘sleep’ time by going to settings, display, and sleep (or something similar). My phone gives several options, like 15 seconds, 30 seconds, up to 10 minutes, or even never. Please do not use ‘never’ or several minutes!
4 Only install apps from the iOS or Android store
Be careful of what you install on your smartphone. It is very easy and fast to grand all kinds of permissions like using your camera and accessing your files and microphone, but it can be harmful. Therefore it is essential that you only use safe and up-to-date apps from the Android or iOS stores.
If you are unsure whether an app is legit, try looking for more information before downloading it. People will let the internet know if they had an unfortunate event with a particular app. Besides, if an app does not have a website or trustworthy email address, it is safe to say that you would be better off just leaving this app be.
5 Be conscious about which permissions an app needs
Some applications will ask for permanent access to your files, camera, microphone, and more. Before granting access, please consider if this app needs access to function correctly. You can deny access, no problem. And if access is violating your privacy in a way that is not acceptable, please send an email to the app store you downloaded it from.
If you accidentally grant access to your phone, you can turn it off by going to settings – applications – app – permissions. See the image below for an example.
For example, camera applications will ask access to your microphone to trigger the shutter with your voice. It could be handy at some point but is not necessary. You are better off using a cheap and lightweight remote shutter. It does seem a little weird when you are talking to your phone while taking many images 😉
6 Track and lock your phone from a distance
You can protect your smartphone and all the data on it from a distance:
- Use find my device for Apple and Android and remotely lock or erase your phone;
- Or automatically erase your iPhone after a certain number (10 or so) of incorrect attempts to enter the passcode or use the fingerprint scanner. Search for auto factory reset, erase data, or something similar in your phones security settings.
For iOS, the steps are:
- Go to Settings
- Select the Touch ID & Passcode option
- Enter your passcode
- Scroll to the bottom and tap Erase Data.
- Tap the Enable button to confirm.
Make sure you searched the house (or wherever) for your smartphone before you erase everything! It would be unfortunate if your phone just fell behind the couch.
7 Make backups from all your data
If you find yourself in the position to delete all your data, including all your photographs, from a distance, it would be convenient if you had a backup.
- Automatically backup your images and videos to Google Photos library;
- Backup files and folders with Google Drive;
- Or use iCloud if you have an Apple phone;
- Android’s native cloud backup solution can store settings, apps, SMS messages, and even your call history;
- Or choose a cloud service like Microsoft’s OneDrive or Amazon Photos;
- You can even automatically backup your data to your computer by using the Syncthing application for Android.
8 Be careful with auto-login
Be extra careful with using smart-lock features! These settings will automatically unlock your cellphone at home or other added locations. Even nearby your smartwatch (trusted devices), you might be in trouble. Same issues can occur while using ‘on-body detection.’ Your device stays on while it is on you. You are better off not using these features.
9 Use two-factor authentication
Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on all services that offer this kind of service. Your phone will have an extra layer of protection for sensitive apps like your bank or credit card company.
On Android phones, it is possible to add similar protection by using a secure folder. You can put files and apps in this folder and protect them with another passcode. Before you can access the application of your choice, you have to unlock your phone and then unlock the folder. Make sure to use another passcode for both access points!
10 Turn of notifications on locked screens
Make sure you don’t show the content of your emails, WhatsApp messages, or any other app on your locked screen. You can turn notifications off entirely or only show you have a new message without giving up any additional information.
Go to settings – notifications – lock screen notifications (or similar) to turn them off or choose ‘show, but hide contents.’
11 Keep your essential apps and documents in a secure folder
Another way to keep crucial apps and documents safe is to use a secure folder app. Some smartphones come with a native secure folder app, as my cellphone does. And others need to download a secure app from the Android or iOS store. Make sure this app is well known, safe to use, and has regular updates.
Safe Folder on Android devices is available from Android 8.0 and up. You have to set a passcode to enter the folder to store important documents and images. Someone will need your passcode, fingerprint or face detection, and another passcode before they can access these files. Unfortunately, it is not possible to move installed apps to this folder.
12 Turn of AirDrop and Bluetooth in public areas
To ensure that a hacker does not try to access your phone via Bluetooth or Apple AirDrop, turn it off in public locations. Several university studies in the US and Germany show that both Bluetooth and AirDrop are not waterproof. So I recommend better be safe than sorry and don’t use these techniques in public unless you have to.
13 Use a VPN when on a public wifi
It is safe to use public wifi on a reputable Virtual Public Network or VPN. You will be less vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks like phishing and identity theft when using public wifi with a VPN. This is because these tools will reroute your traffic through a private encrypted channel.
So is it hazardous to use public wifi without a VPN? Well, you could use it for a couple of minutes to check your social media accounts or to read the news online, but login into your email, WhatsApp, using apps from your bank, or making online purchases is not something that I can recommend! So if you need or want to use public wifi a lot, consider using a reliable VPN connection, like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, or IPVanish, for a couple of bucks per month.
Another option is to use your phone’s 4G or 5G internet connection. Suppose you have doubts about the public wifi you want to use. Please don’t use it at all.
14 Don’t download random files or apps
Keep your phone secure and do not download random files from your email or install apps not improved by Android or Apple. Make sure you know the senders of files and check whether or not an email is legit.
15 Review what data is accessible through your phone
Make sure you check all the data on your phone once in a while. Do you use safe passwords or a pass vault to secure all your data? If anyone hacks or steals your phone, what would they be able to do with the obtained information? Be vigilant about how you use your phone. Don’t give away passwords to your bank account or credit card.
Do you have to save bank statements, your social security number, and your address on your phone? It would be straightforward to clean out your bank account if thieves could access your apps and get your personal information.
16 Install security software on your cellphone
Security software like anti-virus and anti-malware applications are also available for smartphones. However, it would be best to use them to protect your smartphone and its data from hackers. When you surf online, use your email, or download a dodgy app, different types of malware can be installed on your device. Before you know it, you could have a nasty virus, trojan horse, or worm on your favorite device.
Security software will also warn you of malicious sites and apps. It will also notify you every time something downloads to your device that’s bad. For example, my phone came with a built-in virus scanner that runs automatically.
Pro tip! You can also download an app from AVG called Mobile Security from the Android Store or iOS Store. It is possible to use the free version or pay 12 dollars for the first year for an upgrade and use all options like App Lock and Camera Trap to catch the one that uses or steals your phone. The app will work with all Android devices 6.0 or higher. It also allows you to use a secure VPN, lock sensitive apps, test the speed, get rid of junk, scan wifi networks, and perform deep scans.
Final thoughts on how to keep your cellphone safe from hackers and thieves
I hope these tips will keep your phone and all your data safe in this age of cybercrime. Please be thoughtful about the apps you use and the information you share. It might not look too dangerous, but how many people have suffered from cyber-attacks and identity thefts. Please do not become one of them! Stay safe.
Other helpful posts
Noise, especially in low-light images, has been a difficult challenge for smartphone manufacturers. But hope is glooming at the horizon. Smartphone cameras keep improving, and even in nighttime photographs, noise…
Your smartphone and its camera have probably become vital to your everyday life. Especially when you want to become a (professional) smartphone photographer. Nothing is more annoying than a smartphone…
You have a great smartphone with an even better camera, your gear is complete, and you are ready to shoot amazing images. But the result is not what you hoped…
So, for whatever reason, you would like to turn off the camera of your smartphone. We did some research to give you ideas on how to turn it off with…
It is very annoying, trust me, I know, when the camera on your smartphone is not working correctly. One of the things I encountered during mobile photography is that the…