It might be hard to believe, but we’re already a third of the way through summer.
Despite endless rain (and even a tornado at the Isle of Wight Festival in mid-June), we’re approaching the time of year when millions of people head off on their summer holidays.
Whether your idea of a good break involves a leisurely cruise or an adventure-packed trip to a theme park, smartphones will be among the first items on most people’s ‘take with me’ lists.
We rely on our phones for communication, entertainment, navigation, translation…and the photos and videos which are uploaded to social media as soon as free WiFi is available.
In short, our phones store huge amounts of confidential and sensitive data.
As such, keeping your smartphone safe is an essential part of any getaway or break.
A place in the sun
Taking phones away from their normal domestic environment inevitably exposes them to threats they wouldn’t face at home.
From sun and water damage to a heightened risk of loss or theft, there’s more chance of a phone being lost or damaged on holiday than during a normal week.
Local criminals prey on distracted tourists, and a stolen handset can be a lucrative acquisition – not just for its monetary value, but potentially the information it holds about its owner.
That’s before you consider the affects alcohol has on our attentiveness, or the added risks incurred by spending every night in bars or clubs.
These are our tips for keeping your smartphone safe, whether you’re enjoying a foreign vacation or a domestic staycation…
Activate lock screens. Even if you wouldn’t enter a PIN code or use your fingerprint to unlock a phone at home, doing so on holiday is highly advisable.
Phones are more likely to be left unattended while you take a dip in the pool, or raid the buffet table. If a handset is locked, the opportunity for identity theft or fraud is reduced.
Don’t leave the phone visible. Lock screens provide extra security, but it’s far safer to reduce the risk of opportunistic theft by keeping your phone hidden from view.
Put it under your beach towel, squash it down into a trouser pocket or store it in a hotel room safe. Never leave it unattended in public, where an opportunist thief could grab it.
Use a VPN. Insecure hotel and restaurant WiFi networks rarely encrypt transmitted data, yet tourists generally heavily rely on WiFi to minimise data roaming costs.
Install a VPN for web browsing while connected to public data networks. This encrypts traffic, so third parties can’t intercept sensitive data or spy on what you’re doing.
Fit a robust case. This might seem superfluous if your phone spends most of its life in a carpeted house – until the carpet is substituted for tiles, pools and sand.
Rubberised cases cost around £10. They typically wrap around your handset and stand slightly proud of the screen, cushioning it against drops or impacts from any direction.
Install and activate a tracking app. Being able to locate a handset in an unfamiliar town or resort could be a Godsend if it’s misplaced or stolen.
Tracking apps can trigger an audible alarm, permit the remote shutdown of a device, or even take a photo of anyone attempting to unlock it and email their mugshot to you.
Check insurance policies. Travel insurance tends to be a grudging purchase, and there’s no point duplicating cover already provided by your contents insurance.
If your family love their gadgets and high-end smartphones, it may be worth upgrading travel insurance to cover replacement costs in the event of loss or damage.
Write down your phone’s IMEI number. Every smartphone has a unique identification code, used to distinguish it in the event of loss and subsequent recovery.
Type *#06# into your handset’s telephone dial pad, write down the number that appears on a piece of paper, and store it in your wallet or suitcase.
Be aware of ambient conditions. Phones may overheat in hot climates, so leaving your phone in direct sunshine or lying on a beach could prove ruinous.
Equally, don’t jump into a pool with a handset in your trunks pocket. Always take a few seconds to think where your phone is – after all, it’ll rarely leave your side during a holiday…