Smartphone Security: Why we need PINs, Patterns & TouchID - Genisys® Credit Union

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Smartphone Security: Why we need PINs, Patterns & TouchID

on 5/17/2017

Thief stealing woman's phone out of her purseYou probably have that one friend who constantly bugs you about putting a security lock on your phone, in the form of a passcode, or enabling the fingerprint reader to protect you. 

You may think, “Why do I need that extra step just to get into my phone? So what if I lose my phone or it’s stolen? I have nothing to hide!” 

True, you may not have Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe stored on your phone, but there is plenty of information on your phone that could be damaging if it ended up in the w­­rong hands.  Let’s look at some of the most popular apps available for smartphones and the risks they present.

Most of us have email installed on our phones.  If you don’t have a security measure in place to unlock your phone, most likely you don’t have one setup to access your email.  If someone besides you can access your phone, they have access to send emails on your behalf – and it’s probably not to help you. 

Think of the information that could be obtained just by reading your emails; including purchases, password resets, financial statements, and other important information.  Think of the damaging emails someone could send to your boss, co-workers or friends.  What if someone got their hands on the pictures you forgot about from your best friend’s birthday party in Vegas?  Yikes!

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snap Chat are also similar to email. It can be damaging to have things posted that you don’t want.  Think of social media like this: once something is posted, it’s out there forever.  Someone could post false personal information to your page, and as fast as news spreads today, it could be shared and commented on hundreds of times before you realize what has happened.   


Cloud Storage Apps
Many phones come pre-installed with cloud storage for documents, images, and other files.  Google Drive, Dropbox, Verizon Cloud, and other apps allow you to store information in the cloud for easy access.  While the storage itself is secure, access to it may not be. 

With a few taps of the screen, someone could be looking at all your personal information - financial information, tax forms, medical documents, – whatever you have stored for easy access.  While cloud storage has its advantages, without protection on your phone all of that information could be compromised.


Financial Apps
Do you have a Mobile Banking or money transfer app on your phone?  How about a PayPal account? Most financial apps have strong security features in place like forcing a separate login to the application.  This should be a must in a financial app, and if there are not strong security measures, you may want to avoid using it.

Let’s use all this in an example.

Tommy and Gina sit down for a quick bite to eat.  Tommy explains to Gina that he just finished moving all their financial records, including bank statements and tax forms to the cloud for storage.  Gina notices a friend at the table across the room and goes over to say hello, and Tommy goes to use the restroom, but he accidently leaves his phone on the table. 

The guy next to them was listening to the whole time and sees Tommy’s phone on the table.  He quickly grabs it and walks out the door.  Guess what?  Tommy has no security lock on his phone and Jon potentially has access to all those financial records and personal information.  Also, one more thing, Tommy created a document with all their passwords, so they don’t forget….EEEKK!!!

Moral of the story, put a security lock on your phone, be it a PIN, password, pattern lock or fingerprint scanner, something to help protect yourself.  Plus, put a time limit on how long your phone is available without logging in again.  Something like five minutes is usually reasonable for most users. 


Both Android and iPhones have the capabilities of locking and finding lost phones.  Also in some cases, you can remotely wipe data from the phone remotely if needed.   While this is not the end all be all to 100% security, it’s a start. 

Other things like app locks and password managers are good, but do your research and find one from a reputable company.  There are many out there but there are also many that are not reputable.  Spend some time researching these and read multiple articles and reviews from trusted sites before making your decision.

Now, take five minutes and secure that phone!


© Genisys Credit Union and, 2017.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Genisys Credit Union and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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