Encryption and protection of your information devices – for most of us, that means your phone, in most cases – has become a hot topic since Apple is refusing to break into an iPhone for the FBI, something that would jeopardize the security of anyone with a personal information device. While it’s still not definitive – but likely – that the company is able to actually do this, the creation of a back door into personal devices like this would put millions of people in danger. We’ve discussed this in an earlier post, and won’t go into that again here, but rather show you a few ways that you can secure your phone from anyone – including government agents and criminals alike.
While there are several extreme measures that you can go to in order to protect your personal data, we’ll take a quick look at some regular, everyday things that you can do in order to protect yourself from prying eyes. We always advocate that secrecy is not security, but safeguarding our personal possessions, i.e. your information. is a basic need and right for all human beings. A few steps will make it harder for anyone – anyone – to access your personal information without your permission.
Any smartphone has settings that you should be aware of. iPhone, for example, will track where you go, places you frequently visit, and send that information on, unless you tell it not to. iPhone and other smart devices also use cloud storage which will store your backups, images, videos, documents and files, with automatic uploads. Unless you tell them not to.
It would take far too long for us to list every phone and every method of doing these things – the most important thing you can do with your own device, is to read the instructions manual, to find and disable the following things (many devices will let you search through the settings if you’re not sure where the setting is):
- “Location services” – GPS tracking of your movement. While many location services are useful, make sure that you disable tracking of frequent locations, storing of travel routes and such. Regular users will not have any practical use for these things.
- Ad tracking. Apple, among others, use “aggregated” information from your phone to “optimize” ad serving. There’s nothing real in this for you – this is for their revenue purposes. Disable this.
- Cloud storage. Cloud storage may be convenient, but it does nothing for your privacy. If, for example, the information the FBI wants from the phone in question was on an iCloud drive, then there would be no problem for them getting it – it’s the physical location of it on the phone only which is causing them trouble. If you do want to use cloud storage, be very selective when choosing what to upload. This, by the way, also applies to apps like Dropbox, which has settings for automatic upload of pictures, video and files.
- Automatic backup. If you do use automatic backup (which, in essence, is a good idea), make sure that your phone only backs itself up to your personal computer – we’ll cover encrypting that in a later post.
- Single app settings. Many apps have their own settings that you should be aware of, including their own information gathering, which is easy to overlook. Apps like those from UnderArmour and Nike are notorious for gathering personal information, for example.
iPhone and Apple devices have built in encryption, which, as the recent debacle with the FBI shows is quite substantial, but that falls away once you upload things to the cloud storage solution that the very same company offers. Keeping your information safe is keeping it close to you, and limiting the amount of information available about you. While secrecy is not security, control definitely is. Encryption is about controlling information, making it unavailable to anyone not holding the key. And that key is in your head, in the form of your password.
In many cases, smart devices will offer an option to destroy your data if someone tries to break in by entering the wrong password a set number of times. This is highly recommended.
While this protection is enough for most of us, some people have sensitive jobs, occupations or positions which require higher levels of protection, and we’ll take a closer look at some of those options in later posts, so stay tuned. If nothing else, you’ll get a better view of some pretty cool gadgets.