By now, we all understand that smartphones are pocket sized computers, and just as it’s important for you to protect your desktop or laptop, it’s also important for you to protect your smartphone. Security software companies have products specifically designed for use with smartphones because they are just as much at risk as computers. People use their smartphones to conduct business, shop, update their Facebook statuses, post tweets and communicate with friends and family. So, there’s plenty of information that would be useful to hackers. Unfortunately, hackers probably aren’t the most common threats to the data stored on smartphones.

People leave their smartphones on tables in restaurants and coffee shops, on park benches, on sinks in airport restrooms, all kinds of places. And not everyone who finds a lost a smartphone will try to get it back to its rightful owner. That’s why it’s so important for anyone who owns a smartphone to take the following precautions to protect the data on their devices from thieves as well as hackers.

  1. The first thing you should do is create a passcode for your smartphone. Make sure the code is some obscure number or sequence of letters that’s easy for you to remember. Avoid using things like your birth date or your spouse’s birth date or anything that someone could easily guess or obtain through a little Internet digging. Make sure your screen locks after the phone has been for idle for only a minute.
  2. If your device has an encryption option, use it. This is especially important for people who use their smartphones for work. With the increase in BYOD policies, employees who use the encryption options on their smartphones to protect all data stored on them are doing themselves and their employers a huge favor. Despite that, you would be wise to never store customer account information or any other sensitive company data on your smartphone, especially if you’re using your own device and not a company-issued one.
  3. Get in the habit of always putting your smartphone in a pocket or purse when you’re not using it. It’s easy to set a smartphone down on the table beside you while you’re having a cup of coffee in a coffee shop, and then when you’re done, just get up and walk right out of the coffee shop without your phone. If you make a habit of always putting it somewhere that’s easy to reach should you receive an anticipated call or text message, you will greatly reduce the odds of your leaving it somewhere.
  4. Of course, if you have to back up the data stored on your computer, you must also back up the data stored on your smartphone. Even if you’ve taken steps to ensure that no mission-critical or highly sensitive data are stored on your smartphone, that doesn’t mean that the lost data won’t cause a hardship. Imagine you just completed a 20-page white paper on Tuesday afternoon, then lost your smartphone on Wednesday morning, the day that the white paper was due … and you didn’t save it anywhere, except on your smartphone. Yeah, this is probably a farfetched scenario, but you get the point. Valuable work got lost because you didn’t save your document on another device and store it online in Google Docs or some other cloud storage location.

Your smartphone is more than just a phone. It’s a mini computer that needs to be protected against viruses, hackers and thieves just like your laptop or desktop needs to be protected.