Best practices for phone security

As is the case with other devices, the first line of defence for the safety of the information on your mobile phone is to physically protect the phone and its SIM card from being taken or tampered with.

  • Keep your phone with you at all times. Never leave it unattended. Avoid displaying your phone in public.

  • Always use your phone's security lock codes or Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and keep them secret (unknown to others). Always change these from the default factory settings.

  • Physically mark (draw on) the SIM card, additional memory card, battery and phone with something unique and not immediately noticeable to a stranger (make a small mark, drawing, letters or numbers, or try using ultra-violet marker, which will be invisible in normal light). Place printed tamper-proof security labels or tape over the joints of the phone. This will help you easily to identify whether any of these items have been tampered with or replaced (e.g. the label or tape will be mis-aligned, or leave a noticeable residue).

  • Make sure that you are aware of the information that is stored on your SIM card, on additional memory cards and in your phone's memory. Don't store sensitive information on the phone. If you need to store such information, consider putting it on external memory cards that can easily be discarded when necessary – don't put such details into the phone's internal memory.

  • Protect your SIM card and additional memory card (if your phone has one), as they may contain sensitive information such as contact details and SMS messages. For example, make sure that you do not leave them at the repair shop when your phone is being serviced.

  • When disposing of your phone make sure you are not giving away any information that is stored on it or on the SIM or memory card (even if the phone or cards are broken or expired). Disposing of SIM cards by physically destroying them may be the best option. If you plan to give away, sell or re-use your phone make sure that all information is deleted.

  • Consider using only trusted phone dealers and repair shops. This reduces the vulnerability of your information when getting second-hand hand phones or having your phone repaired. Consider buying your phone from an authorised but randomly chosen phone dealer – this way you reduce the chance that your phone will be specially prepared for you with spying software preinstalled on it.

  • Back up your phone information regularly to a computer. Store the backup safely and securely (see chapter: 4. How to protect the sensitive files on your computer. This will allow you to restore the data if you lose your phone. Having a backup will also help you remember what information might be compromised (when your phone is lost or stolen), so you can take appropriate actions.

  • The 15-digit serial or IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number helps to identify your phone and can be accessed by keying *#06# into most phones, by looking behind the battery of your phone or by checking in the phone's settings. Make a note of this number and keep it separate from your phone, as this number could help to trace and prove ownership quickly if it is stolen.

  • Consider the advantages and disadvantages of registering your phone with the service provider. If you report your phone stolen, the service provider should then be able to stop further use of your phone. However, registering it means your phone usage is tied to your identity.