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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mobile Phone Theft: Unit Security and Identity Theft Combined

Mobile phone theft is on the rise world wide. New handsets are a costly investment, and thieves can make a quick profit with a new model. However, your phone may contain a wealth of information that makes identity theft easy for anyone who may steal or find it. You may use your smartphone are  to access bank accounts, electronic mail, calendar and other sensitive accounts. Additionally, your personal contacts, addresses and photographs are stored within a phone's memory. If your device falls into the hands of another person, he or she can quickly learn private details that can be used to turn a simple phone theft into a far more lucrative looting.

HANOVER, GERMANY - MARCH 06: A visitor examine...
HANOVER, GERMANY - MARCH 06: A visitor examines a Samsung smartphone with a Microsoft operating system on the first day of the CeBIT 2012 technology trade fair on March 6, 2012 in Hanover, Germany. CeBIT 2012, the world's largest information technology trade fair, will run from March 6-10, and advances in cloud computing and security are major features this year. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
To protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft if your phone becomes lost or stolen, it is important to properly protect your device. The foremost and easiest way to keep prying eyes out of your mobile's memory is to utilize password protection. You can lock the screen saver and keep your phone from making calls and texts or from opening applications without the proper numeric personal identification number (PIN). Some devices, including the iPhone, include the option to automatically wipe all data from the phone when the PIN is incorrectly entered multiple times. It is recommended that you have separate PINs for unlocking the screen and accessing the secure applications within it, as this provides an extra layer of security.

Also regarding applications, it is important to ensure that all programs on your smartphone are downloaded from an app store with a good reputation. While several programs are available for quick download via QR, or quick response, code, your best bet is to search for the program through your mobile device. Android Play Store applications are less stringently regulated than those in the iPhone App Store, and malware is rapidly increasing with some downloads for the platform. Be wary of programs that ask to verify your location, as these can potentially pinpoint your phone with a global positioning system.

Always keep your mobile phone and applications current. Security patches and operating system fixes are routinely included in updates, so it is in your best interest to have the most up-to-date version of all software on your handset. Usually, mobile updates are small, taking only a few minutes to complete. The slight inconvenience of restarting your phone is easily justified by the peace of mind that comes from knowing that its programs are free of security loopholes.

Be mindful of exactly what information you have stored on your mobile phone. Ensure that you have a back-up of your mobile data. It is easy to sync your device, and doing so can save you the hassle of recollecting contact numbers, photographs and passwords should your phone be stolen, memory wiped or otherwise compromised. Your application store saves information about your past downloads, making them available for installation without having to pay a second time, but personal data can be permanently deleted if a back-up has not been created.

by Jaye Ryan, a freelance writer who loves to write about mobile phones, smartphones and mobile technology for MobilePhones.org.uk.

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