HOWTO: Keep your cell phone safe and secure

Cell phone user thanks to Gwenflickr

Time to put the smart in smart phone!

With news updates of phone hacking scandals splashing headlines the world over, we’re hearing lots of cell phone security buzz – and for good reason too!

While a major news outlet may not be interested in your cell phone activities (or we sure hope not!), this is still a great time to make sure you are practicing some solid cell phone security practices.

Keep that cell phone close by!

You are far more likely to misplace / lose a cell phone than to get hacked, so be sure your little handheld buddy doesn’t stray too far.

  • Beware of keeping your phone on your table at busy restaurants, leaving your phone in the car (even just for a ‘second’), etc.
  • Find a ‘funky’ cover or skin to make it super easy to identify your iPhone – avoid an accidental mix up easily (I’m a big fan of the Infectious skins) when at a networking event or dinner with 7,000 other iPhone / Blackberry / Android users
  • Password protect your phone to keep your logins, contacts, email and notes safe from undesirables – also great for making sure any kiddos in your life don’t make random calls to Japan
    • For safety purposes, use an emergency app like smart-ICE to not only store your ICE info (‘In Case of Emergency’) for paramedics to be aware of medical conditions, insurance details and contact info, but add ICE info to your locked screen (in addition to your quirky-cool smart phone wall paper).
  • Install a phone location / security app on your phone, a few examples:

Beware of public Wifi + ‘Evil Twins’

Yay for public Internet access!   But boo for public Wi-Fi security.   Extra emphasis on that ‘boo’ when using a credit card or login, as not all Wi-Fi connections are as secure and innocent as they seem.   Learn more about the ‘Evil Twin’ phishing scam here.

As cumbersome and slow as it might be, opt for your 3G / 4G network connection over a public Wi-Fi connection to stay secure.   Or pick up your own piece of the Internet and invest in a MiFi card.

What’s up with hardware and software security?

Not all apps and phones are created equal.   As an iPhone user, Apple has a more stringent vetting process of apps that helps weed out *most* malicious programs.   Android’s app community is far more open and has had some security exploits in early 2011.

Use common sense when purchasing apps and accessing certain sites (like your bank account, for instance) on your smart phone.   Beware of ‘look alike’ apps that might be masquerading as a Chase banking utility and think twice about depositing checks using a phone app – and learn the safe ways to bank on your phone here..

Photo thanks to Flickr user GwenFlickr

Trend Tuesday: Teen Texting Rise and New Legislation

When I was a teenager (early 2000’s), text messaging didn’t exist. Blackberries were around and could send emails, but they were expensive, and no one my age had one. Actually, most of my friends didn’t have cell phones until they were driving, and some not until college. And even then, minutes were expensive, so my group didn’t really use our phones very often. We used instant messenger.

I can remember nights of having 9 different conversation windows open on my computer screen (until the miracle of tabs) and learning to type fast solely so I could chat faster. While IM was great at allowing multiple conversations, it did have it’s limitations.   You couldn’t really use it without sitting in front of a computer (connected to the internet), and IM required that the other person was in front of a computer, also connected.   This tiny requirement usually kept IM sessions to a few hours in the evening, and not always every night.

Texts are very similar to IM’s. Short messages are sent back and forth between two people (occasionally sent in mass). Texting, however, has essentially removed the limitation of being in front of a computer and connected to the internet. And it has changed everything for teens.   Now, teens can “IM” each other at any time, day or night. You just need to have a cell phone, which many are getting at younger and younger ages (I know a 12 year-old who sports an iPhone). Those of us older than 19 may text quite a bit, but not nearly as much as the teens. I send/receive around 1,200 texts a month.   In the world of the teens, though, that is bush league.   The teens I know (friends of my younger brother) send between 5k and 10k texts a month. Rumor is one girl sends almost 20k per month. Texting that much is almost inconceivable in my mind, but carrying on conversations with friends is not.

I’m sure if my IM messages were tallied up in a similar fashion, I would have sent similar numbers. But again, my IM’s were limited to time in front of the computer.   Because these massive amount of texts are being sent at any and all times, they are creating some dangerous situations.   Car and Driver recently did a study and found texting while driving to be (much) more dangerous than drinking and driving.

Texting while driving

As a result of the growing trend of accidents caused by texting, many states (Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia) are enacting legislation to make texting and emailing from mobile devices for teens (and in some cases everyone) illegal while driving. As society is adapting to new technologies, it is great to see that the lawmakers are doing their part to keep up. These types of laws are picking up steam across the country and will likely be the norm in a few more years.

Adults may not be texting up a storm as they drive, but sending emails and twittering are likely just as dangerous. These communication tools have brought communication everywhere, even places where we should be focused on other things. Let’s keep having the conversations, but make sure it is done safely.

Image from