Securing Your Smart Phone

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Amanda Sutton panicked when someone stole her smart phone.

She says, "Who knows what they could do with that information? I mean, there's pictures, and bank cards, and e-mails."

Unfortunately, Amanda hadn't taken steps to protect her personal information. She's not alone, according to a nationally representative survey done by Consumer Reports.

Simon Slater with Consumer Reports explains, "Nearly 40% of smart-phone users don't take actions to secure their phones, like backing up their data or simply setting a screen lock."

Even if you do lock, experts say a tech-savvy thief can quickly crack certain four-digit passcodes.

Consumer Reports says far safer: setting a longer code that includes letters and symbols. Android phones let you do it by going to settings, but then each phone is a little different.

On one, "security" then "screen lock" gets you to the password reset. But on this Android phone, you'll tap "lock screen" … "screen lock" in order to change your password.

With iPhones it's even trickier. Under "settings," tap "general" and "passcode lock." Check that the "simple passcode" is turned off. Then tap "turn passcode on" and now you can enter your longer passcode.

Consumer Reports says another security risk - apps that ask for permission to do too much … like this simple flashlight app. It wants to know your location and information about your phone calls.

For adults like Amanda, taking a few basic precautions can secure sensitive data. And kids need protection, too. The survey projects at least five million preteens have a smart phone of their own.

Malicious software isn't as common on your smart phone as on your computer. But the problem is growing, so Consumer Reports recommends getting your apps only from reputable sources.

Android users should stick with Amazon's Appstore or Google Play. For iPhone users, Apple's App Store is the only source for apps, and it's reputable, too.

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