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Tips to keep sensitive smartphone info safe

File photo of an iPhone passcode security screen.
May 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A newly released survey by Consumer Reports projects that more than 7 million smartphone owners had a phone that was lost, stolen or ruined in the last year.

If you store sensitive information in your smartphone, losing track of it could spell disaster.

"Nearly 40 percent of smartphone users don't take actions to secure their phones, like backing up their data or simply setting a screen lock," said Simon Slater of Consumer Reports.

Even if you do set a lock, experts say a tech-savvy thief can quickly crack certain four-digit passcodes. Consumer Reports says far safer is setting a longer code that includes letters and symbols.

Android phones let you do set one by going to the settings section, but then each phone is a little different. On one, "security" then "screen lock" gets you to the password reset. But on another Android phone, you'll tap "lock screen," then "screen lock" in order to change the password.

With iPhones, it's even trickier. Under "settings," tap "general" and "passcode lock." Check that the "simple passcode" is turned off. Then tap "turn passcode on" and enter the longer passcode.

Consumer reports says another security risk are apps that ask for permission to do too much. One such app is a simple flashlight app we downloaded. It wants to know your location and information about your phone calls.

Taking a few basic precautions can secure sensitive data. And kids need protection, too. The survey projects at least 5 million preteens have a smartphone of their own.

Malicious software isn't as common for smartphone as they are for computers, but the problem is increasing, so Consumer Reports recommends getting apps only from reputable sources. Android users should stick with Amazon's Appstore or Google Play. For iPhone users, Apple's App Store is the only source for apps, and it's reputable, too.


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