How to keep your phone data safe and prevent identity fraud

Features Chishi Kapundu 17:36, 29 Mar 2011

We previously revealed how people leave sensitive data on their old phones - now I want to try and help people keep their phones safe

A couple of days ago we reported on how people are leaving personal data on their mobile phones without erasing vital information such as credit card details and passwords.

When you exchange or recycle your phone you could be handing over all this information to the purchaser, leaving you open to identity fraud.

Personal information found on old phones included data such as banking details, photographs and emails.

The increasing storage capacity in mobiles adds to the danger of identity fraud.

Joe Nocera, an information security expert and a principle with PricewaterhouseCoopers voiced his concerns: “Many of the security concerns that people think about when they think about their personal computers are applicable in the mobile world.

As mobile devices become more sophisticated, they lend themselves to the same types of access to e-mail, passwords, and other secure information that PCs have done in the past.”

To try and prevent anyone using the data on your phone in a malicious way, you first need to make sure you delete all the sensitive information on your phone. Here's how to do that.

  • Never keep an old SIM card – Always remove it from your old phone and then destroy.
  • Restore all factory settings - Your phone will go back to how it was when it left the factory, so any downloads, installs, messages etc that were put after will be lost.
  • Delete any back ups – Even if you do securely delete all data on your mobile this does not guarantee that this data will not be on a back up anywhere else.
  • Log out and delete – Something that many of us forget to do is to log out of social network sites accessed via your phone along with wireless connections, company networks and applications, and once logged out you must delete passwords and any wireless connections.
  • Various passwords – It is better to use various IDs and passwords on multiple systems as it will be easier for someone to hack into your details.

If you are unsurehow to delete the data on your phone you can follow the instructions for erasing data in the manual or on the manufacturer’s web site.

If you are donating your device to a charitable organisation, you could always ask if they will change out the software as this will erase any trace of ownership and remove the phonebook and other private information.

But if you are still stuck and you doubt whether or not sensitive information is retained on your device, you may want to consider the alternative of physically destroying it.

Another way sensitive data can get into the wrong hands is when they're stolen.

Do not leave your phone lying around especially in pubs, clubs or places where there are a high volume of people moving around and it can be stolen.

Also if you must send and receive emails via your handset make sure that these emails do not contain sensitive information relating to bank and building society accounts, making them prime for identity theft.

Surfing the Internet outside of your house can be risky as it can be hacked by anyone with a laptop or Wi-Fi enabled mobile phone which would give them the ability to extract important information and gain access to your emails.

You should not only make a note of the model, phone number and PIN number details, but also your phone’s unique reference number, or IMEI, as this will enable most network operators to permanently disable the handset if it is stolen.

A more low-tech method of both tracking your phone and making it unappealing for thieves is to mark the handset with an ultraviolet pen.

Launched by the Home Office in January 2005, the Immobilise website allows mobile phone owners to log their device for free on the National Mobile Phone Register.

This searchable database means that any stolen mobiles uncovered by the police can be immediately tracked back to the owner.

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