Smartphones are one of those devices we just assume is safe and works, but there are a lot of hidden risks to owning a smartphone. Phones today are at the brink of being almost as powerful as a modern day computer and combined with them containing tonnes of our private information, there are several reasons why they are juicy targets for criminals.
A big problem with smartphones today is mostly unique to Android devices, once their warranty is up and even sometimes before, the company who built the phones will flat out abandon them and stop making security updates for them. Considering that updates is one of the biggest ways to make sure your device is safe, this is a problem in itself. There are only a couple of limited ways to fix this though, one is to switch to a company that does keep their phones updated for years after release, install an open Operating System on it (probably not for you, as this is very difficult) or simply buy a newer more recently updated phone.
Unfortunately most of the options I mentioned really sucks and critical system errors are usually rare on modern phones, so the second best thing you can do is to make sure your apps are all up to date. App development goes rather quickly and an range in several updates a week, but this also means that problems appear and get fixed with a few days notice, which means running an old app can make it extremely vulnerable to known issues.
Another good way to stay safe when out and about, is to use a VPN on a daily basis, not just for wifi safety, as cellular networks have time and again proven to be unsafe and unreliable. In general, being mindful of what you access on what network and especially in public areas is of big importance. Not just because of public networks, but because a lot of your private information can be seen on screen as well. This is also why you should try and stick to home banking while actually at home and the same applies for doing your taxes or social benefits.
The thing to keep in mind is always that your phone is more important than your wallet, because it contains most of the information in your wallet, plus a bunch of extra information. This is also why it is important to remove files you don’t need from your phone, having old pdf’s with your social security number in them or word documents with account numbers in them, are very high risk.
The last good tip is to use encryption to encrypt the data inside your phone, so even if your phone gets stolen, the data can’t be accessed directly. I sadly can’t really tell you how to do this though, as most different manufacturers puts this feature in different places and some omit it entirely. This by extension brings us to the way you unlock your phone, using swiping, face recognition or other fun and easy unlocks are big risks, swiping can be guessed in a few tries and face recognition can be beaten with a piece of paper. The only real ones to trust is password protection or real bio metrics like fingerprints or iris scanners.