Phone security 101

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It's really important to understand that our phones are a combination of many different computers. Such an understanding helps us address the security risks they pose.

Our phones are often a GPS, accelerometer, altimeter, camera, modem, and sometimes even an FM radio!

If we were to reduce this to what is practicable, here are 5 immediate steps we can take to increase security on our phones:

1. Lock your phone with a PIN. There are instances, like a casino or
   heavily surveilled airport, where using a fingerprint makes
   sense...but largely, if you use a PIN greater six or more digits,
   you'll prevent a casual intrusion.
2. Encrypt your phone and turn on secondary security on apps when
   possible. Most versions of iOS/Apple & Android mobile operating
   systems now come with encryption turned-on out of the box. Double
   check and if it isn't turned on, turn it on. Some apps, like Signal,
   allow you to have an app specific password so that if someone breaks
   the encryption on your phone, they don't have access to your
   messages in the secured application.
3. Practice greater app security and permissions scrutiny. Does the
   flashlight app need access to your contacts? Why does your email app
   need access to SMS? Have a look at these permissions and if they
   don't make sense, don't grant permissions. Facebook is an app which
   should get a high degree of scrutiny: it attempts to take all your
   contact information and, even if you're careful, might take it after
   an app update. Try to access FB (if you must) through a browser
4. Know your environment and practice phone hygine: if you are engaged
   in work, even now and then, that could put traditionally targeted
   populations at risk, practice message hygine! Delete messages and
   photos that could put folks at risk. Our phones are like filing
   cabinets that rarely get cleaned out and sometimes what we keep...or
   forgot we have...can put folks at risk.
5. Understand there are times where having no phone is the best
   strategy...this doesn't mean get rid of your phone but knowing there
   are times where an unplugged microwave oven or a faraday bag are
   your friends to go dark. There's something nefarious afoot when
   phones no longer have removable batteries.

In the end, phone security begins with understanding our phones a little better and taking small practical steps to reduce the harm they can cause in our mission driven work.