Smartphones are central to our lives. Everyone uses them and they hold every possible piece of information about us. They contain our digital soul and therefore phone security is an important topic. I am regularly shocked at how many people do not use a lock on them. On our phone we have browsing histories, photos, downloads, access to all accounts (mail, social media, banking, etc.), basically our identity. What people often forget is that the phone acts as a second security factor for many services. Banks like to use them, Twitter likes to use them and even Google includes smartphones in their security strategy.
Given this importance I have a hard time understanding why people trade a little convenience for a security nightmare. Convenience is not even an issue anymore given that fingerprints and face unlock work without any noticeable delay. A friend of mine had her phone stolen recently and when she told me and asked me what the thief can possibly do I asked her “Was your phone locked?”. She answered “No, I did not have any auto-locking or pass-code.”. I had to answer “Basically anything.”. After that she was very unsettled. A simple pass-code would have saved her a lot of grief.
However, theft is not the only situation in where a pass-code can work wonders. Studies show that in relationships it is quite common for partners to look at the contents of each others phone. Interestingly, this happens often without the knowledge or consent of the phone owner. This abusive behavior can also be stopped by a simple pass-code. If one tries to guilt-trip you by saying “Do you have anything to hide from me?”, it might be a red flag that this person might be emotionally abusive. In the best case, having secrets from each other builds trust, and even if a partner is not able to accept a locked phone it is an early sign to pull the emergency brake.
Of course with any password or pass-code it is important to choose something fairly long and difficult to guess. Many people use their birth year. This is effectively the same as having no pass-code at all. Phones are quite good at protecting from trying pass-code combinations. Therefore, the pass-code does not need to be too long. Only hard to guess is the important factor here.
- iPhone users should look at the support section at the Apple website. This page show perfectly how to enable screen locking.
- Android users can check the support page of Google. It lists also the different types of screen locks. However, never ever go for the pattern unlock. It is similar to the birth year and easy to break. Grease on the phone screen will show your pattern after inputting it once. My recommendation is a passphrase.
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