The Complete Guide to Mobile Phone Security

Of the 93% of adults in South Africa use a mobile phone, almost one quarter (24%) have fallen victim to cyber crime (source: Norton Cyber Crime Report). Meanwhile, UK data reveals that children and young adults are the most vulnerable group. As a student, you can see how important it is to protect your mobile – and the precious data it contains.

The Complete Guide to Mobile Phone Security

This article offers simple, actionable advice to help you do just that; best of all, the tips we recommend won’t cost you a penny.

Don’t Be a Walking Target

According to UK data, mobile phones represent 46% of all personal theft, up from 31% from 2010/11. In fact, 2% of all phone owners will have their phones stolen this year, rising to 4% in the 14-17 and 18-24 age range. One of the biggest mistakes young people tend to make is using their phones in public, making it all too easy for an opportunistic phone thief to snatch it their hands. Keep your phone out of site in public areas; particularly if you are alone or it is dark. Chatting away – or worse, texting – while on the move can distract you from potentially suspicious characters. Put your phone away; that Tweet can wait!

Put your phone away; that Tweet can wait!

Put your phone away; that Tweet can wait!

Secure your Home Against Thieves

Data also suggests a link between levels of home security and mobile phone theft. University student homes are notoriously unsecure; cheap accommodation often lacks the necessary security equipment you take for granted in your parents’ home. For example, thin wooden doors, rusty old locks and disconnected burglar alarms are effectively an invitation to your property; even worse, students’ typically relaxed attitude to locking doors and windows leaves you open (literally) to theft. If you are a student, check your building’s security credentials before you move in and if your bedroom door does not have a lock, get one. You should also consider investing in a combination safe for your valuables – share it with your housemates and split the cost.

Urban Safety

Another important factor in personal theft is your residential area. Unsurprisingly, people in urban areas are at higher risk than people in the countryside. Data from Lookout reveals that the most common places to lose your phone around the world: in Cape Town it is in an office; in Chicago it is in a coffee shop; in London it is in a pub! The next time you visit you’re out and about, do a quick scan on/under the table and seats before you leave – mobiles have an annoying habit of scampering out of sight (especially after a drink)! You should also avoid hanging your coats and bags on the back of your chair, as this makes it easy for pickpockets to grab your valuables without you even noticing.

Insure Your Mobile

It is far better to take action before your mobile is stolen. Although you can call your operator and have your phone locked as soon as you realise it is missing, in the meantime (as you search for it frantically) the thief can run up a crippling phone bill calling premium rate or overseas numbers, purchasing expensive apps or wreaking havoc on your social media accounts. To protect yourself from charges, make sure you have mobile phone insurance; yes, it’s a pain, but for a little extra a month you might just avoid the phone bill from hell later on.

Free Phone Loss Apps

There are a number of free phone loss apps that can help you to locate and recover your mobile if it is stolen. For iPhones, these include Find My iPhone and Lookout, which is also available on Android, along with Avast! Mobile Security and Trust Go.

Keep Your Personal Data – Personal!

However, as anyone who has ever been the victim of phone crime will know, losing your mobile is only half the problem; it is what happens next that can be the real nightmare. When you consider how much personal information is stored on your mobile, it is all too easy to imagine how a criminal could put this data to use. The Norton report reveals that 64% of South African mobile users send and receive work-related correspondence on their phones, 21% account passwords and 42% bank statements.

Despite being liberal with their sensitive data, 28% of South African mobile users do not use a password. Treat your mobile phone like a personal journal that anyone could read if they found it – you wouldn’t leave a notebook open at the page where you had recorded your passwords, so why do the same on your phone?

Back to Basics

Most phone hacking takes place over Wifi or Bluetooth, so turn them off when not in use. When downloading apps, stick to the official app stores (20% of South African mobile users admit to downloading from non-trusted sources); free imitations of paid apps are will often contain viruses. Finally, do not ignore your OS updates; most devices have inbuilt security, which is regularly reviewed to offer protection against the latest viruses.


Personal theft is a major concern amongst the South African student community. Luckily, in just a few simple steps you can defend yourself from mobile phone thieves and continue to use your treasured device to your heart’s content.

Security writer Vikki works alongside works alongside LBS Group. A smartphone enthusiast, she enjoys writing anti-theft guides for the benefit of fellow mobile users.

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by JLM Photography.

Author: SmartStudent

SmartStudent is an educational portal that provides information & advice to aspiring students. regarding applying to university, choosing a course, what to take to university, finding student accommodation and much more.

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