Travelling with your smartphone
Are you a smart phone traveller? If you take your phone when you travel (as many people do), what is the top of your list when it comes to preparing your phone for travel? Most smartphone users who are travelling overseas are well aware of charges, particularly data roaming charges, and make attempts to research the costs and consider buying a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) SIM card, if their phone is unlocked and will operate at the travel destination. Others just switch off data and make use of free wifi, where available. Both of these approaches are sensible and can save you from a nasty surprise when you return home from your trip and receive your phone bill.
What do you use your phone for?
This may seem like an obvious question, but it’s the type of question that a smart phone traveller considers. When you start to think about the information your phone holds and the number of apps, email addresses and social media profiles you might be permanently logged into, you may start to think more carefully about mobile security.
A smart phone traveller thinks about security
Do you think you are already a smart phone traveller? Know the Net have produced a really useful short test about mobile security – take the Are you in the dark about mobile security test and see how much you know.
Be a smart phone traveller in 10 steps
Before travelling, review your smartphone or other mobile devices by following these ten steps:
- Back up your mobile life: if your phone is lost, damaged or stolen, what precious content might you lose forever if you don’t back it up before you go? Whether you complete manual back ups to a computer or have a cloud-based storage plan, just make sure your important content is safe.
- Keep updated: keep your mobile operating system and apps updated. App and operating system updates don’t just deliver new features and bug fixes, they can also provide important security updates.
- Review your apps: not all apps used at home are necessary on the road. Removing apps you don’t need access to not only frees up storage space, so you can make use of travel apps on your trip and have more room for photos and video, but it also removes the risk of someone accessing the data associated with those apps, if your device is compromised in some way. For example, if you’re a student and your smartphone is logged into your University’s apps (e.g. a portal, learning management system or virtual learning environment) and you have no intention of engaging with your studies while you travel, logout of those apps on your phone and remove. Staying logged into mobile apps all the time is convenient but if that app contains sensitive information, always log out when you are not using it. You can also purchase apps which work as a digital safe on your device, enabling you to hide private files, photos, videos etc. Using an app like this provides another level of security. Don’t forget to check reviews for an app before you install it and research the company who produces the app; think about who you are giving access to your smartphone via an app.
- Remove your work life: do you access work systems, work email or work social media accounts from your smartphone? If so, again ask yourself, do you need to be logged into those accounts when you are away from work? If you are careless with your device and someone gets access to your employer’s systems or digital identity (by accessing social profiles), you could find yourself in trouble with the boss – or worse.
- Cellular data: for international travel, know how to switch on and switch off data roaming on your phone; do this before you arrive at your destination to avoid charges. Despite the cost of roaming, you might want to be able to switch it on in an emergency, so make sure your phone is set up before you travel by contacting your phone provider.
- Bluetooth: whether you use Bluetooth on your phone or not, if your phone has this feature, know how to switch it off (and on). Bluetooth when switched on, provides another means of sending and receiving data and a hacker can exploit this to access your phone and send messages on your behalf. Learn more about Bluetooth in this Bluetooth guide by How Stuff Works
- Wifi: free wifi on the road can be fantastic but you should be careful when using free wifi especially when the service is public and requires no security to connect to it. Think about what you do when you access the internet via non-secure wifi – and who owns the wifi network. Someone on the same network could be accessing your phone. Read How-To Geek’s guide to the dangers of public wifi to learn more about the issue and the benefits of virtual private networks (VPNs).
- Privacy: check the location services for your apps on your phone; these can usually be found in your phone’s settings. There are times when it can be fun and useful to share your location online, but think about how and when you do this and always know when you are doing it. Location data can be captured in photographs you take too, this is a great feature, especially if you want to upload photos to a map. Consider not sharing your location when you are visiting someone’s home, without their permission first. Whether you care about your own privacy or not, care about the privacy of those you are connected to via your smartphone e.g. think about the potentially very personal information a friend might have shared with you via messages, or the access to information you have about your friends via social media. Their private Facebook Timelines and personal photos are only as secure as the devices you use to access those profiles.
- Security settings: make sure you understand your smartphone’s security features, use a password and always keep your phone locked when not in use. Some phones can also be set up for remote wiping, like Apple’s Find my iPhone service. If the worst happens, at least this type of service provides some comfort that it’s just the device that is lost or stolen and not your content and digital identity.
- Anti-virus software: install antivirus software if you don’t already have it. Anti-virus software for a smartphone doesn’t always offer the same level of protection that antivirus software would do for a desktop computer or laptop. Smartphone operating systems can limit what antivirus software can do, so always research antivirus apps and understand what you are paying for.
The above are just a few key things you can do to keep the content of your phone and the services you access, more secure. In addition to the above, think about where you store your phone when you travel, do you leave it lying around unattended on charge? Do you store your smartphone in an easy-to-access compartment in your backpack? If access is easy and convenient for you, it could also be easy and convenient for a thief.
As well as the mobile security test (above), Know the Net have some other fantastic resources, including this article on Mobile Safety
How secure is your phone?
Do you consider yourself a smart phone traveller? What other security tips would you add to the list above?Let me know in the comments, below.