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6 ways to secure your smartphone

Tuesday, 15 November 2016
1. Encrypt your smartphone

Android users can opt in for encryption, a method to protect information stored on a device by scrambling it to make it unreadable without a key. To check if your handset is encrypted, open the "Settings" app and select "Security" from the options menu. Then, select the section called "Encryption" to see the status of your smartphone. If you see something along the lines of "encrypt device" then it means your Android phone is not encrypted yet.
 
2. Set up a strong password
 
When encrypting an Android phone for the first time, users will need to set up a password, numeric PIN code, fingerprint or a pattern to unlock the device. Since the key to unlocking a device is only known only to its owner, Android users should be aware that getting locked out means they will have to factory reset the device, which will delete all the encrypted information.

The best general tip for a secure code, password or pattern is to make it random and as long or convoluted as it can be. For passwords, make sure they include different cases, numbers, letters and symbols. Security appliance firm SplashData releases an annual report spotlighting the worst passwords and users can take a peak to see what passwords to avoid. There are also several services — 1Password, LastPass, KeePass or Dashlane — that help users create strong passwords while anonymizing and storing their passwords.

3. Use apps offering end-to-end encryption
 
There are no shortage of ways to communicate and organize, but some platforms are more secure than others. The key is to look for end-to-end encryption, which means nobody aside from the individuals involved in the communication can have access to the information.

While Facebook Messenger features end-to-end encryption, which users have to opt into by opening a "secret conversation," Facebook Groups offers no such protection. Apps like WhatsApp, Semaphor and Signal also provide end-to-end encryption. The Verge warns, however, that WhatsApp stores chat logs and even shares individual data with Facebook. Signal, on the other hand, is well received by cryptographers, does not store metadata and, according to data from App Annie, downloads for the encrypted messaging app have spiked since Trump got elected.
 
4. Use two-factor authentication whenever offered
 
Two-factor authentication, also known as 2FA, requires users to put in a password and another piece of information that only they know. Quartz reports that a "second layer of security" is important and apps offering two-factor authentication include Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Slack, WordPress, Evernote, iCloud, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Box and Instagram.

5. Use a different browser
 
Google's convenience is undeniable, but the tech giant knows everything about your life through its search engine and its many apps and services. Those who use larger search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo might want to consider stepping away from the big names to something that won't track you like DuckDuckGo — the Android mobile app version of the browser is available for free in the Google Play store.

6. Update your device and apps regularly

Most updates for phones and apps sort out kinks and security bugs so it is in the user's best security interest to stay on top of any available updates.