The struggle is real – balancing smartphone security and convenience

hand with brightly painted finger nails holding cell phone
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Your smartphone knows you better than anyone—even your squad.

It knows where you go, what you do and who you text. It knows what you like on our pizza and how much you have in our checking account. And the more info you share with it, the more it can do for you.

We’re all thirsty for the convenience smartphones deliver, but sometimes we pay for it with our security. All that data we store in our apps, like passwords and credit card numbers, can fall into the wrong hands if our phone gets lost or stolen. And malware is just as capable of infecting a smartphone as a computer, allowing identity thieves to steal our login credentials and other private info.

Is your smartphone protected? A few simple habits can help keep your information private and ensure your best friend doesn’t become your worst frenemy.

Passcode-protect your stuff. If someone swiped your phone, would it keep your secrets or spill the tea about you? A simple passcode is enough to keep most prying eyes out, but two in three people don’t enable it. That’s like taking the door off your apartment. Authorized users only, tyvm.

Trade up your OS. Updates can wait—Snapchat can’t. Right? But when months go by and you still haven’t installed the newest software to keep your phone from being hacked, you might have a problem. Those annoying updates help make your device more bulletproof. Yes, please.

Do the antivirus thing. We download apps for literally everything. But the apps that protect the private info we give to other apps? Just 14 percent of people use them. Antivirus apps keep malware and spyware out. You should totes get some.

Nope out on shady apps. Bad apps may not walk around twirling a handlebar mustache, but they do have some tells. Whether it’s free or paid, check the ratings before you download a new app. Highly rated apps are usually legit, while low ratings are sus. Be extra dubious if you have an Android phone, since they don’t vet the apps in their market.

Beware public Wi-Fi. Who doesn’t love public Wi-Fi? Your mobile banking app, for one. Doing financial stuff on a public network makes you a mark for identity thieves, who could swipe your credit card or personal info. Your provider’s 3G or 4G network is the safest way to shop online, transfer money and check your OCCU account.

Keep your location low-key. Sometimes you want an app to know your location—like when you’re ordering an Uber. Other times, not so much. Did you know the pics you take with your smartphone are geotagged with your current location? Someone could access that info online. If you want to stay incognito, turn off the geotagging feature and manually choose which apps can see your location.

A little convenience might seem worth the risk when you’re in the moment, but cleaning up after a case of identity theft will make your life anything but easy. Much better to safeguard your smartphone now and save yourself the trouble.