How to keep your phone private
Every electronic device is hackable. Luckily there are measures you can take to protect yourself and your personal data.
Secure your lock screen
This may seem obvious, but some people still only rely on a swipe to unlock their smartphone. To keep your phone protected, you should set a strong password or PIN. Make sure the password or number isn’t related to you, such as your birth date. Anything too obvious is easy for a thief to guess.
Manage your location services
If you turn off your location services, you and your phone can’t be tracked.
Limit app accessibility
Many of the apps on your phone will request access to other things on your device, like your files, camera, or GPS. Make sure you have these turned off for apps that don’t need them to prevent oversharing information.
Don’t save password in your browser
Don’t allow your browsers, such as Safari or Chrome, to save your passwords. They’re actually stored in your browser as plain text, so if your phone is ever compromised, so are your passwords.
Use a password manager
You can install a password manager to manage and keep track of your passwords online. You won’t have to remember the complicated ones or risk writing them down for someone to find.
Stick to official apps
Only download apps from the official app stores (Apple Store and Google Play Store). These platforms have security measures in place to protect you. Downloading apps elsewhere could open you up to malicious viruses.
Stay off public Wi-Fi
You can’t guarantee that public Wi-Fi will be safe and secure. Someone else could be on the Wi-Fi trying to intercept your data. To avoid this, stick to data whilst out and about.
Activate Find my iPhone
Take a look at some of the best smartphones you can buy that have privacy and security at the heart of their design.
Purism Librem 5
The Purism Librem 5 is designed with ultimate security in mind.
This private phone allows you to fully protect your information and maintain control over the use of your data. This brand prides itself on being the “future of digital privacy”. Check out some of their privacy features below.
✔ The Librem 5 operates on PureOS, which is neither iOS nor Android. Purism claim it’s the most efficient operating system for providing privacy without compromising on performance
✔ Tracking is disabled by default on the phone and its apps
✔ The phone has a physical ‘kill switch’ built into its design. When pressed, it disconnects Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, signal, microphone, camera, and GPS
✔ There is no need to enter banking details to download an app from the app store
✔ Ideal for individuals and businesses, with built-in software protection that fights viruses and common threats
✔ Source code is available for audit - perfect for CTOs and tech enthusiasts
✔ Continuous privacy updates ensure the phone stays secure and protected
✔ Applications are isolated from one another. They don’t have visibility or access into areas that are not needed or allowed.
A familiar name, the Apple iPhone 12 comes with a few features to make you feel more secure.
✔ Face ID means only your face looking into the phone’s camera sensor can unlock the iPhone
✔ Supports two-factor authentication with a PIN number and Face ID to make your phone extra secure
✔ The Find My iPhone feature allows you to not only locate your phone if it’s lost or stolen, but also remotely wipe your data
✔ With iOS 14 you can control how much data is shared with apps. Apps must ask your permission to track you
✔ Cloud backup allows you to save your data to iCloud to erase your device or switch to a new one. Having this option means you’re less likely to lose any information
✔ If you’ve got other Apple devices, you’ll sometimes get asked to cross-reference that it's you trying to log in.
Google Pixel 5
✔ Set different types of app permissions: ‘One-time permissions’ and ‘Permissions auto-reset’. The former means you can give apps access to your microphone, camera, and location, but it has to request permission each time. The latter means your device will turn off the data permissions on apps you haven’t used in a while. Between these settings, no app can automatically track your activity without your given consent
✔ The Google Safe Browsing feature helps you avoid suspicious websites and links
✔ Google Play sends privacy fixes to your phone to avoid things like downloading dangerous apps
✔ Gain greater control over all of your Google devices from your phone by knowing exactly what’s connected in your home (like the TV, lights, smart kitchen appliances) and turning off things that aren’t needed or wanted
✔ Android 11 comes with added privacy enhancements to protect work profiles on company-owned computers.
Bittium Tough Mobile 2
Founded in 1985, Bittium specialise in producing secure devices for governments, leading authorities, companies, and anyone else who wants strict privacy measures.
✔ Has multi-layered security integrated into both the hardware and internal software on the phone to keep your data secure from prying eyes. Includes tamper detection to prevent spying, disk encryption, and OS security
✔ Easily activate Privacy Mode by holding the button in the top right on the case. It will light up green when it’s on, and disable the microphone, camera, and Bluetooth so you can ensure no one is spying on you
✔ Includes Bittium Secure Suite device management, allowing individuals or organisations to communicate securely
✔ User credentials are encrypted and privately stored, so no one can access your passwords and other sensitive information
✔ There are three variants of the mobile phone, depending on the level of security desired. Choose with Google Mobile Services, without Google Mobile Services, or with separated operating systems (only available for governments and qualified organisations).
Silent Circle Blackphone 2
Silent Circle is an encrypted communications company that specialises in privacy. Like Bittium, they are aimed at governments and organisations that require strict security measures, but anyone can buy their smartphones.
✔ Encrypted by default to protect the internal data on your device
✔ Apps have to ask for your permission before saving, storing, or tracking any information
✔ Comes with the Blackphone Security Centre management system
✔ Use the Spaces feature to separate personal apps, data, and activity from work-related ones. This keeps your data on both accounts fully protected and secure
✔ Buy their Silent Phone license for secure calls and video conferences. You’ll also get access to their Burn feature which deletes all communications between people.
Not only is the Fairphone 3 privacy-conscious, but it’s also one of the most sustainable and recyclable smartphones on the market. If you want to support ethical manufacturing, check out this brand.
✔ Lock your SIM card to prevent loss of data if your phone is stolen. By doing this, your phone will require a PIN every time you start it up. If the user doesn’t enter this correctly, they won’t be able to make calls, text, or use data
✔ Use Android Device Manager to remotely wipe your lost or stolen phone. You can also set a new password through this if you think yours has been compromised
✔ Operates on /e/OS, in partnership with /e/ Foundation, which focuses on maintaining user privacy.
While phones designed with extra privacy features are helpful, there’s plenty more you can do to keep your smartphone safe.
Follow us on Twitter for more tips and guides.