Most of us have one, most of us benefit from them, we put our lives all over them but should in reality fear them. Smartphones are a tool of the modern world, being able to share data to anybody instantly; a mindblowing concept.
Each year, new devices are released, with new and possibly beneficial features, Authenticating yourself only by looking at the screen, Storing Photos in the cloud, Managing banking transactions with minimal effort. Smartphones are convenient. Yes. They can also be VERY damaging for activists.
A device that knows where you are, where you’re going, when you’re there, the journey you took, and whether you drove, walked or cycled. They know who’s with you, they hold the messages you’ve sent to each other and the pictures and videos you took while you were there.
One small mistake and the device you hold so dearly can get you into some serious ‘legal’ issues. The biggest mistake that you may already be making? Unlocking your phone.
Various reports show that most devices are secured with a 4 Number Passcode, Are you currently doing this? If you are, this should be the first step you take to securing your device. Longer passwords are harder to enter, yes, but are also relatively harder for Law enforcement to break.
Knowing the difference between an Insecure and ‘Secure’ Smartphone can be difficult. With the next few posts, we’ll try to recommend easy to implement changes and tips that ANYBODY can follow, irrelevant to your knowledge of technology.
There’s a constant battle in the tech world with Security vs Convenience, With Smartphones, typically benefit from convenience. As mentioned above, Face, fingerprint, and iris unlocking for your device are very ‘cool’ and convenient methods of authentication but take it from us, there’s nothing stopping Law enforcement from forcing your eyes open, your phone to your face, or by pressing each finger onto your fingerprint scanner. – the only thing they currently cannot do is force you to provide a password to a device. 1*
Most Operating Systems on Phones use the screen lock as a method of Encryption; It’s good to assume that if you’re using a 4 number password or similar, the data on your device is easily recoverable by anybody with very little effort.
Bringing us to the first change for a more secure device.
Your Device password.
If you’re currently using a ‘PIN Code’ or Numerical password, Change it.
If you’re using a Pattern lock, Change it.
If you’re using Biometrics, Fingerprint, FaceID, Iris… Stop… Seriously. Stop it. Stop reading, go disable it now…
If your password is the name of your ‘pet’, child, spouse, town, date of birth, Spring2016, AnimalLiberation, or FuckTheCops, Change it.
Change it to what? Good Question!
How do we as Human beings, Generate a Secure, complex password that’s difficult for a highly-intelligent computer to guess? It’s not difficult, there’s a general rule in the password-cracking industry that longer passwords aren’t typically the most secure.
As the person writing this post, I can suggest the following formula for ‘Secure’ Passwords.
Multiple, DIFFERENT Symbols, Multiple Words in different languages if you’re so lucky to know them and numbers, no phone numbers, bank pins or dates and 1312, 161, etc are also not secure :). It may be easier for you to remember a complex password if it flows easily when you recall it in your head, maybe something that rhymes.
For Example, Looking around me right now, I will try to make a ‘secure’ password, 1 x Aloe Vera Plant… 1 x Bottle of Water… 2 x Skylights… 8 steps to some Stairs…
My Password could be:
Easier to remember, but less Secure:
Now… I understand that you might be thinking “There’s no way I’m going to remember something like that…” This is why it’s important to personalize your password with rules and patterns that make sense to you. Assuming you use your Smartphone every day, That’s a repetitive task for your brain and you will learn to type the password easily, without thought very quickly. It’s just adjusting to it that may take a few days. Sadly, Security is not convenient and will take effort to introduce.
If you’re worried about forgetting the password, I suggest keeping a written copy or reminder of the password until you don’t need it anymore and then destroy it with fire :), it’s better to use a slightly insecure method of security temporarily than it is to only use insecure methods permanently.
This change is possibly the most mentally demanding. It will take time and effort to introduce properly but once you’ve laid the groundwork here, the effectiveness of the other changes will be greatly increased; Banks aren’t made from Cardboard for a reason ;).
Change your Password!
1* – Depending on where you are in the world, the Police can press Legal charges for individuals who do not provide access to personal devices. What we mean is they can’t force their way into your brain.