How to protect your smartphone

What would you do if your smartphone got into the wrong hands? Is it password protected? What if someone bypassed the protection? Let’s look at ways to protect it.

Our smartphones are more than a device for communicating; they store our most personal data, including bank account information, email accounts, photos of loved ones, confidential work-related information, and access to personal identity data…all of which need to be kept safe.

Many fraud protection articles talk about shopping on a secure site, leaving your social insurance card at home and changing your passwords often. This is all excellent advice, but what about protecting the device that goes with you everywhere and stores everything about you?

By implementing the following tips, you can minimize or eliminate the impact of unauthorized access to your smartphone.

Password protect your device

Whether it’s a PIN, pattern, alphanumeric password or biometric meter, it’s crucial to protect your phone. If using an alphanumeric password, ensure that it contains a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Try to avoid four-digit passwords that relate to your birthday or anniversary as these can easily be found on social media. Oh, and avoid any of the PINs below.

The data below, compiled by DataGenetics, a tech consulting firm, indicates an alarmingly high frequency of the PIN “1234,” compared to other frequently-used numbers.

  1. Pin #1234 – Frequency 10.713%
  2. Pin #1111 – Frequency 6.016%
  3. Pin #0000 – Frequency 1.881%
  4. Pin #1212 – Frequency 1.197%
  5. Pin #7777 – Frequency 0.745%
  6. Pin #1004 – Frequency 0.616%
  7. Pin #2000 – Frequency 0.613%
  8. Pin #4444 – Frequency 0.526%
  9. Pin #2222 – Frequency 0.516%
  10. Pin #6969 – Frequency 0.512%

Unfortunately, our best intentions can sometimes have flaws. In the case of password protection, there is inevitably that moment when you need to use “Forgot my password”. You enter your email address, and an email is sent with a password reset. This brings us to our next point…

Create a strong and unique password for your primary email account

If there is one account that should have maximum protection, it is your email account. Protecting your primary email account is the best thing you can do for yourself.

Some platforms require additional identity verification security by sending a text to your phone with a confirmation code when you sign in from an unusual location. Since many sites allow you to reset a forgotten password, it is imperative that the password associated with your email account be strong. Pick a password, and do not use it (or a variation of it!) for logging into any other accounts.

Install a password manager on your smartphone

Now that your smartphone is password protected, and your primary email account has a unique and strong password that is not used anywhere else — what about all those usernames and passwords you have to remember for the most obscure sites? The ones you use once per year?

This is where a password manager can come in handy. These apps provide the advantage of storing your passwords in one secure, encrypted location, rather than having passwords written on paper, or scribbled on post-it notes. Some great password managers include KeePass and LastPass.

In my next blog, we will discuss how to best manage the apps on your device and some proactive steps that can be taken to minimize unauthorized access to personal information.

Keep the conversation going

Is there anything you do to protect your phone and all the valuable information inside? Post a comment below.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Jennifer Schurer, CPA, CMA

Jennifer leads and facilitates workshops on financial literacy as part of the CPA Financial Literacy program. Her passion lies in educating youth about money, including credit cards, mortgages, budgeting and goal setting. She also has an interest in providing education to general audiences on best practices for saving and spending.