Notes on
Mobile Safety

Your mobile phone is your diary, address book, personal assistant, bank, and any number of other very personal things. It goes without saying that you should do whatever you can to protect it from harm or getting into the wrong hands. It can also assist in keeping you safer in general.

ICE

First and foremost your own health and physical security is important, and your phone can help with that. The ICE (in case of emergency) programme was designed in 2004 so that paramedics could quickly determine who to contact in case you are injured. Initially, this was the advice that you should put the letters ICE1, ICE2 etc. at the start of the address book entries of people you would like to be contacted in an emergency situation. Of course, if you lock your screen, this isn't much help for people that can't unlock it, such as paramedics. This is why some phone manufacturers now offer their own alternatives, based on the original ICE idea.

I hope you never need to use the emergency features on your phone, but it's worth familiarising yourself with them and setting them up because they could one day be the difference between life or death. If you have children, don't forget to make sure they also have their ICE information available with them and added into their phone. You should also keep your ICE details available on a card in your wallet, especially if you have any serious health conditions.

For iPhones

iPhones have a feature called Medical ID, which allows your health information and emergency contacts to be available in emergencies. The Medical ID feature is managed through the Health app which is bundled with iOS. Once it's set up, your details will be available from the Emergency button on the lock screen.

For Samsung phones

Press and hold the power button, then press “Emergency Mode” to set up the emergency features. If you don't see the Emergency Mode option when you hold the power button down, you may need to enable it in your system settings, under “System → Safety Assistance”.

For Android phones

If you have a phone based on the Android Nougat operating system or newer (Android 7.0 or above), you can add emergency information from “System Settings → Users → Emergency information”. Once it's set up, your details will be available from the Emergency button on the lock screen.

Mobile Phone Theft

Between 2014 and 2015, 1.2% of mobile phone owners in England and Wales had their phone stolen, according to the 2014 to 2015 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). 1.2% is a pretty big number, equivalent to about 538,000 people. Although this is the lowest figure since statistics started to be collected on mobile phone thefts, it still means you have a reasonable chance of somebody attempting to steal your phone.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to prevent your phone from being stolen, and ways to mitigate the damage caused by a theft.

To prevent a phone theft

Make recovering your lost or stolen phone easier

Register your phone with Immobilise, a free register for ownership details that helps Police identify the owners of recovered property. This is good advice for all of your gadgets in general, not just your mobile phone.

Many phone manufacturers offer a lost phone service to help you track down your lost or stolen phone. If you use an Apple device, you can use Find My iPhone as part of your iCloud service. Samsung offer a Find my Mobile service, and other Android phones can be recovered using the Android Device Manager. Windows Phone users can use Microsoft's Find My Phone service.

These services are all well worth setting up ready as a precaution and most of them allow you to display a message with your contact details and a reward message for it to be returned. They also offer features to make the phone useless to somebody that has stolen it.

Most of the services allow you to track where your phone is located, erase your phone's data remotely, some even allow you to take photos of the person that's handling it; all very much worth looking into.

Keeping your data safe

It's not only the physical phone it's self which is valuable to criminals, the personal information stored on it is very valuable too. If your phone does end up in the wrong hands, there's a chance that your details (your contact list, account details, etc.) might end up being sold on black markets. There are many features you can use to prevent the information from your phone becoming available to them.

You should also consider that it's not only criminals you may need to watch out for, it can be also friends and relatives you don't want seeing your private messages and photos.

Fortunately it's very easy to ensure that you're the only person that can access your phone. The most easy and effective technique is using a lock screen with a passcode or pattern lock. These can be enabled or changed from your phones settings. If you're using a passcode, use a code which is at least 6 digits long (and certainly not your bank pin number!) If you're using a pattern to unlock your screen, disable the connecting lines from being visible to make it more difficult for people to discover what your unlock pattern is. Always make sure to change the passcode or pattern whenever you think somebody else might have watched you enter it.

You can also encrypt the data on your phone. Encryption is when the data on your phone is scrambled for anybody that doesn't have the password to decrypt it. This can be very effective against hackers and is extremely difficult and time consuming to bypass, and even impossible so-far on many phones.

Encrypting your phone can take quite a long time to set up if it's not been set up on your phone before, but it's certainly a step worth taking if you take your data security seriously.

Written by James Allen, September 2016