Your smartphone does it all – right down to keeping your data secure. Or so you think. You might be surprised to learn that your data isn’t completely locked down. If a hacker can “sniff” the packets your phone sends through the network, that hacker has a chance at getting your information. The same goes for your lock screen. If you don’t have your phone screen locked, anyone can get in. All someone has to do is swipe open your phone screen and get at your private information. Following are tips to help you secure your phone and keep what’s inside to yourself.

Lock Your Phone Down

Image via Flickr by Ervins Strauhmanis

Smartphones come out of the box without a screen lock set up. This allows you to create your own PIN or swipe pattern to unlock the phone when you’re ready to use it. Many people don’t bother setting up the screen lock, because it takes more time to get into the phone. This is fine when your phone is on your person, but if you leave it somewhere or lose it, you put your data at risk.

Take the time to set your lock screen and learn to type or swipe fast. A few seconds of hassle can save you from major headaches later.

Virtual Private Network

A virtual private network takes your data and routes it through a server that’s different than the one you normally use. This has the effect of re-routing your IP address and device information, making it more difficult for someone to track where your information originates from. All VPNs are not created equal, so you should make sure that the one you use doesn’t log information. A VPN that collects data is putting your anonymity at risk, especially if a court-ordered subpoena for server logs gets issued during a trail that involves the VPN.

Use Built-in Smartphone Security Features

IOS and Android come with virtual leashes that let you track your phone if it’s stolen or lost. The newest iPhones come with a native app called Find My Phone, and Android comes with Device Manager. Both require the phone to have a data connection to allow for discovery and a remote data wipe of the phone from a computer.

It’s no secret that Android phones have varying degrees of security. The Samsung Galaxy S7 for the T-Mobile network is a great choice for the security conscious. The combination of a phone built around security and a cellular network that prioritizes data security helps you breathe easy. Making it harder for hackers to catch data streams means they’ll give up sooner than later and move onto less protected targets.

Use Device Encryption

Device encryption locks down your phone and turns information into an unreadable soup of symbols. The only way to view what’s on the phone is to enter the correct password. If someone steals your phone for the purpose of getting your data, they won’t be able to gain access without your password.

Encrypting data on older phones may slow down their operations. If your phone is older, you might want to opt for other security measures that won’t affect performance. Newer phones with more recent technology won’t see much, if any, change in their performance. Also make sure that the encryption can be undone voluntarily. There may come a time when you want to upgrade and sell your old phone. Being able to unencrypt and wipe your phone is important when it comes to getting the phone ready to hand over.

These are just some of the ways you can keep your smartphone and its valuable information secure. Always assume that someone is out there trying to get at your sensitive information and you need to protect yourself against them. You’ll thank yourself later in the event the worst ever does happen.