smartphone security mistakesSmartphones are almost like second brains for a lot of people these days, and few of us leave our homes without them — or even have them out of our hands for long. We use them to keep in touch with family and friends, conduct business, make purchases, organize our lives, stay entertained and much more. Unfortunately, because these devices are so important, they are also at risk for being targeted by thieves and scammers who can use them to get to us (and our valuable data). No matter how savvy you think you are when it comes to cybersecurity and your privacy, chances are you make at least one of the most common smartphone security mistakes on a regular basis. We outline four mistakes people make with their smartphones and why you should avoid making them in the future.

Smartphone security mistakes you might be making

1. You don’t use a lock screen or password protection.

Most smartphones these days are designed so that you can prevent someone from accessing their contents by using a lock screen. Rather than just a PIN, nowadays lock screens can be protected by a myriad of methods — tracing a secret pattern with your finger, a series of taps on the screen or even using your fingerprint. Furthermore, you can sometimes add PIN or password protection to specific apps within your phone. While it might be a pain to type out a code or perform another action every time you want to use your phone, enabling this security feature can be a strong deterrent to someone wanting to try and access your phone’s data.

2. You don’t utilize privacy settings available to you.

Chances are, your smartphone is your window to the world in many ways, from using it to post to social media to logging into your bank account. Using your phone for these kinds of actions isn’t inherently a mistake, but failing to utilize privacy settings while you do so certainly is. When you post to social media, take care to disable geolocation features so that someone can’t track your whereabouts through your mobile posts. If you’re using your smartphone to access financial accounts, be sure that you have extra security features enabled whenever possible, such as fingerprint verification, and don’t let your phone “remember” your login details and keep you logged in. Additionally, be careful when downloading apps — only use official sources, such as the Apple App Store, Google Play or Amazon’s App Store to download new apps and take care to check over any app for signs that it’s not what it seems before installing it onto your phone. If you don’t understand any of your phone’s privacy settings, you can always visit your wireless provider or contact the manufacturer’s customer service line to get assistance.

3. You connect to free or insecure Wi-Fi networks.

We harp on this one a lot, but it’s worth repeating because — as we recently covered — Americans are statistically unlikely to think twice before connecting to any available Wi-Fi network. Though you might be thinking about it in terms of saving money by not using up your monthly data plan, consider the long-term ramifications that can come from using an unprotected network. Someone could intercept your connection and steal your data or watch your every move, for example. Even those you might think are more likely to be secure, such as Wi-Fi offered in your hotel room or pay-for-play Wi-Fi on an airplane, are at risk of being exploited by a criminal with the know-how. If you consistently go over your mobile data in a given month, consider upgrading your plan rather than using potentially dangerous public Wi-Fi connections. At the very least, try to avoid using an insecure connection for anything highly sensitive.

4. You haven’t planned for the worst case scenario.

Nobody wants to think that their phone could be lost, stolen or hacked into, but unfortunately, we live in a world where scenarios like those are a potential reality. It’s easy to think about what you should have done in the aftermath, but if you put some protocols into place now, you can breathe a sigh of relief in the future if the unthinkable should happen. In addition to downloadable apps and built-in features on many smartphones that enable you to use GPS to track its location in the event yours turns up missing, it’s also possible in many cases to use an app or your wireless service provider account to remotely wipe your phone’s data. The last thing most of us want are our photos, contacts, messages and other private data to fall into the hands of a thief, but that can happen if your smartphone is taken. Setting up some fail-safe solutions ahead of time can be the difference between getting your phone back, or at least knowing that your data isn’t going to be misused, and your data being available to anyone who gets ahold of your phone.

The best way to stay safe in today’s mobile world and protect your smartphone security is to stay up-to-date on the technology you own and the risks you might face. Follow our identity theft protection blog for more tips on protecting your identity across the board.