How to hide sensitive data on your mobile device

In the past, stolen cellphones were usually resold to new owners at a cheaper price. But that was before our phones held so much personal information and now it's really easy to exploit this information to make more money off the stolen device. Data on your smartphone such as bank accounts, photos and emails could easy be used to commit crimes like identity theft.

It's a good thing there's plenty of preventative measures you can take to secure your smartphone if it gets lost or stolen. If a thief gets his or her hands on your Android or Apple phone, you will definitely want these defenses in place.

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Cybersecurity tips

KEEP YOUR PASSWORDS STRONG AND VARIED

If your password is easy for you to remember, then it'll be easy for hackers, too. Try using symbols, numbers and capital letters throughout your passcode. Also, experts suggest you use different passwords for different accounts. 

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EMPLOY TWO-STEP AUTHENTICATION

Add another layer of security by having another code sent to your phone number before you can sign in.

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BEWARE OF PUBLIC WIFI

If you're traveling, verify with the coffee shop or hotel that the wi-fi name is valid -- many cybercriminals set up networks with similar names to popular spots. You can also set up a private VPN that encrypts all of your data that passes through the network.

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COVER YOUR TRACKS

Wipe your hard drive clean before giving away, recycling or throwing out your old laptop or computer.

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DON'T LEAVE YOUR DEVICES UNATTENDED

That's just asking for trouble!

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BEWARE OF MYSTERIOUS URLS IN EMAILS

Don't ever click on URL from an unidentified or sketchy looking email. 

(Just One Film via Getty Images)

COVER YOUR WEBCAM 

FBI director James Comey suggests placing a piece of tape over your webcam when you're not using it. If that doesn't convince you, note that Mark Zuckerberg is known to do the same.

KEEP YOUR SOFTWARE UP TO DATE

Hackers target vulnerabilities in software, which are often resolved in software updates, so stop hitting the "ignore" or "remind me later" button!

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Android

  1. Android Device Manager: This is a free app you can download from the Google Play store. If you lose your phone, you can log in to your Google account from another device and see a map of where it is. Getting the phone back is great, but the real saving grace is being able to wipe the phone clean; this app allows you to erase all your phone data and reset your lock screen passcode.
  2. Fingerprint: If you have the latest Android operating system, Marshmallow, then you can use your prints to buy and sign into apps and purchase things with Android Pay. If you enable this feature and your phone gets stolen, the thief won't be able to buy things through your device. To access this feature, open the "Settings" app. Under "Personal," tap "Security" then "Pixel Imprint" or "Nexus Imprint." Then just follow directions for scanning your prints.
  3. App-specific passwords: You can assign specific passwords to apps that hold private information (i.e., mobile banking, document sharing and emails). AppLock is a free app from the Google Play store where you can set up passcodes for apps, photos and videos. Since fingerprint locking doesn't work on older Android phones, this is a great alternative.

Apple

  1. Find My iPhone: This is a free app you can download from the App Store. If you lose your phone, you can log into your Apple ID account from another device and see a map of where it is. Getting the phone back is great, but the real saving grace is being able to wipe the phone clean; this app allows you to erase all your phone's content and settings.
  2. Fingerprint: If you have the iPhone 5s or any newer versions, then you can use Touch ID to buy items from the App Store, iBook Store, iTunes Store, and use Apple Pay. If you enable this feature and your phone gets stolen, the thief won't be able to buy things through your device. To access this feature, open the "Settings" app. Tap "Touch ID & Passcode," then enter your passcode. That will bring up a list of the where you can choose to enable or disable actions that require your fingerprint.
  3. Secure your Apple ID: This account holds all the crucial information used to access the Apple services you use, including contact and payment information. Create a challenging password and change it every so often. Set up two-step verification so that there are two steps you must complete before getting into the account. To turn this feature on, sign into your Apple ID account and select "Get Started..." under two-verification in the security section of the page. Also, make the answers to your security questions hard to guess.

Please don't use Android Device Manager and Find My iPhone to retrieve a stolen phone by yourself. One young man was able to locate his stolen phone but the thief shot him twice when he tried to get it back. Please contact the police so that they can get your device and apprehend the criminal.

Also, make sure your smartphone has the most recent software update. These updates could come with improvements to your phone's security. For more smartphone tips, click here!

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