WORRIED your mates might be trying to snoop on your online activities? As more of our private data makes it’s way online, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’ve got your gadgets locked down.
We’ve rounded up eight great ways to keep your digital goods locked away – so partners, friends, family or colleagues won’t be able to have a quick flick through your iPhone, tablet, or laptop.
1. Make sure your passwords are strong
This might seem obvious, but having a strong password or passcode is massively important on any device.
Research suggests than more than half of people use the top 25 most common passwords, so if you’ve got “123456” or “letmein” then you’re genuinely at risk of being caught out.
Windows and Mac computers – and Android phones too – let you create proper text passwords, so choose something long and hard to guess.
Include capital letters, punctuation and numbers for maximum security, and try to avoid using whole words.
Phones that let you draw a pattern to unlock might seem safe, but it’s possible to guess your pattern by watching you enter it, or replicating your finger smudge.
2. Biometrics are an easy way to lock up your device
Biometric security means using bits of your body for verify you – and it’s a great way to stay safe.
Most iPhones and Android phones, as well as newer MacBooks and Windows laptops offer fingerprint scanners, which are very hard to crack.
You can also set up facial recognition with Apple’s Face ID on the new iPhone X, or through Windows Hello on Windows 10 laptops.
Some Samsung phones – including the new Galaxy S8 – feature similar iris-scanning tech, which also works really well.
If you’ve got a smart speaker, it’s worth setting up personalised voice recognition. That way, anyone trying make calls using your Amazon Echo won’t be able to access your contacts, and Google Home won’t fess up your daily calendar.
3. Use file lockers to hide your pics
If you’re happy to let people on your device but don’t want them checking out your photos or files, a locked vault app is the perfect solution.
Probably the most popular and widely-used app is Folder Lock, which is available on Android, iPhone, PC and Mac.
It lets you password-protect almost everything, including files, photos, videos, documents, contacts, and more. It fully encrypts and hides files, too.
4. Set your device to auto-sleep
It’s easy to put your phone or laptop down and walk away, forgetting to lock it.
This gives snoopers an easy way into your device – your next trip to the loo could be your undoing.
Almost every smartphone, tablet or computer will let you set sleep settings, so that your device will go into a lock mode if you don’t use it for a certain amount of time.
We recommend setting it to something short, like 30 seconds, so no one has a chance to break into your device when you’re away.
5. Protect your home WiFi with a password
If you’ve got a home Wi-Fi network, make sure it’s password protected. Otherwise anyone on the same network – including people outside of your home – can use software to hijack the content and track everything you do online.
Generally you can change this by logging into your customer account on your internet provider’s website, like BT or Sky. Alternatively, try accessing your router directly be entering the IP address into your search bar field in a web browser. Common addresses include: 192.168.1.1, 192.168.0.1, and 192.168.2.1.
As we mentioned before, hard-to-guess passwords are always the best.
6. Set up auto-wipe on your device
If you’re really paranoid about your data being nicked, you can set up some devices to auto-wipe all of your data completely.
For instance, dive into your iPhone’s privacy settings and you’ll find an ‘Erase Data’ option.
If you activate this, everything on your iPhone will be completely deleted if someone trying to unlock your iPhone’s passcode fails 10 times.
It’s designed to stop people from simply spamming lots of different codes to “bruteforce” their way into your device, but be careful – if you forget your passcode, you’re stuff.
We recommend backing up all of your data if you’re going to activate this feature.
7. Download a VPN or Tor
If you’re sharing a Wi-Fi network with family or friends, they could use software to track your online traffic.
But there are certain online tools that re-route your connection through other locations, essentially hiding what you do online from everyone else.
The most famous software is the Tor Browser, but any standard VPN software or app will work too.
People on your Wi-Fi network will who are trying to spy on you will know that you’re hiding your traffic from them, but they won’t be able to see what you’re actually browsing.
8. Blank out your notifications
If you’ve got a smartphone, chances are you’ll leave it on a table or desk from time to time.
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Anyone nearby could quite easily see the contents of compromising text messages or e-mails popping up on your lock screen in the form of notifications.
Fortunately, both iPhone and Android phones let you hide the contents of lock-screen notifications. This means it’ll show up that you’ve received a message, but won’t display the text.
You can also disable notifications completely if you like, but this could get annoying with daily use – as you’ll never be alerted to texts or Facebook messages, for instance.