Mobile phone safety tips – protect your data and your phone bill

As the mobile phone becomes more mobile computer than phone, the amount (and type) of information we carry with is has expanded. Pick up your phone right now and take a look at all the stuff you have stored on it – then picture what kind of hell you’ll go through if you lose it.

A lost phone will often contain access to your email, account information, Twitter, Facebook and other social networking accounts and of course a variety of music and video clips.

So – what can you do to protect your mobile life? We’ve collected ten tips that can help keep you safe, and safeguard your data if disaster strikes.
Password protection is not just another feature

Ever seen the “enable password protection” option on your phone? It is there for a reason – at least, a reason beyond being really annoying. Yes – having to enter your PIN every time you turn your phone on sucks. But don’t turn it off just because it annoys you! The pin or password protection is the first level of defense against thieves.

Alternatively, pick a SIM pin change feature, which will require a pin code when the sim card in your phone is changed (only for GSM phones).

Restrict international calls

Often, one of the first things a thief will do when they find a phone, is hand it over to a calling store – where people can make international calls using your phone. Thieves work fast – if you have lost your phone for two hours, you may have two hours of international calls on your next bill.

With some international calls costing as much as $5/minute, you’ll understand that your next phone bill may drain your bank account.

Always notify the operator as soon as your phone is stolen or lost

Even if your phone doesn’t contain anything really sensitive, always notify your mobile operator as soon as you can. The sooner you call them, the sooner they can disable your account and make a note of the loss/theft. This can help reduce your liability. This is especially important when you are abroad, as the international charges could run in the thousands if your phone is misused.

Also, be sure to call your local police department to ask whether it makes sense to file a report – especially in the case of theft, it may be wise to have a record of the theft. This can help return your phone should the thief get caught.

Be careful what you store on your phone

When you log into a web site on your phone, you’ll often be promoted whether you want to save the password you entered.

Think very carefully about this – if this is for Ebay, Paypal or something else of vital importance, you’ll always want to decline saving the password. The same applies to social networking sites, or anything else that can use your name to order products or leave comments.

Yes – having to log in each time is a hassle, but so is dealing with thousands of dollars in stuff you didn’t order if someone starts screwing around in your Ebay account.

And finally, if you are a little kinky, you may have some photos on your phone of your husband or wife that you may not want to share. Don’t become the next Paris Hilton – if you really have the need to store kinky photos or videos, be sure to protect them with some form of password safety. If you lose your phone, nothing is stopping people from uploading that stuff to the Internet. Good luck explaining that one to your neighbors or parents.

Add a mobile protection application – iPhone

The Apple MobileMe service extends your iPhone onto your desktop – it offers push email, file and media sharing and a host of security features. In the MobileMe control panel, you can track, wipe and lock your iPhone. There are several real life stories out there of how MobileMe helped track down an iPhone thief.

The service costs $99/year, but that obviously includes all the other cool features of MobileMe.

Product page: MobileMe

Add a mobile protection application – Windows Mobile

Windows Mobile users can install Sprite Terminator – this $14.95 application does remote wipe, remote lock and GPS tracking of your device. Once installed, you can remotely monitor your phone using the Web or another mobile device.

Sprite Terminator even lets you pull the most recent call records, which can be great if you need some more evidence to help track down a thief. In GSM phones, Sprite Terminator will even alert you to SIM card changes.

Product page: Sprite Terminator

Add a mobile protection application – Android

On Android devices, WaveSecure is the leading protection application – like most others, it supports remote lock and wipe, as well as SIM card change alerts (on GSM devices). WaveSecure uses SMS messages to trigger its alerts, which means a thief won’t even need a data plan to get caught.

WaveSecure adds more than most programs by offering remote backup of your media, contacts and other vital information. The application costs $19.95 per year.

As of this week, WaveSecure even added a product removal watchdog, which makes it almost impossible to remove the application without the alarm being triggered.

Product page: WaveSecure

Add a mobile protection application – Blackberry

SmrtGuard is the best data protection suite for Blackberry users – not only will this app lock your Blackberry, it can even be set to uninstall all key applications like password keeper and messaging – which adds an even greater level of protection.

Inside SmrtGuard, you can even listen in on the surroundings (how very James Bond). Better still – SmrtGuard can trigger an audio ping if you have lost your phone and need help locating it.

SmartGuard in its basic form is free, but a more advanced version with remote data backup is available starting at $2.99/month. The firm behind SmrtGuard also sells a similar version for Android users.

Product page: SmrtGuard

On Android – when your phone is lost, change your Google password immediately

Google Android phones rely on your Google account for everything they do – email, contacts, application downloads and more. If you lose your phone, find a computer and immediately change your Google password – this will lock the phone and require the finder to use your new Google password to restore it. No password = no risk of them breaking into your data.

Never store private information on your device (without encrypting it)

That note called “important stuff” that holds your social security number and the code for your garage may be really handy, but can you imagine the trouble you’ll be in if someone gets their hands on it?

Thankfully, there are ways to store this kind of stuff on your device, without having to worry about the bad guys.

Keeper, by Callpod is a good example of how to do this. The Keeper application is a two-part package – a free app for Android, Blackberry or iPhone, and a $29.95 desktop application for PC, Mac and Linux.

With the package, you can enter all your important stuff on your computer, then sync it with your phone – where it will be stored in a heavy encryption format.

Best of all, if someone tries to break into it, all the data can self destruct.

Product page: Callpod Keeper