Nearly one in five South Africans don’t have a password on their smartphone. With almost 9 million South Africans reportedly victims of cyber crime in the last year, according to a 2016 study by internet security company Norton, the need for heightened security measures for tech devices becomes abundantly clear.
As the consumer’s desire for convenience continues to grow, devices such as mobile phones become increasingly indispensable. Most people can barely recall a time when the functioning of a mobile phone was limited to making and receiving calls and text messages. Today, mobile phones are our bank teller, our PA, our work and personal email accounts and our family photo album. As a result, they are also our entire life laid open to unscrupulous individuals looking to steal our identity or commit fraud.
One of the most common ways that people render themselves vulnerable to such crime is when taking their mobile device in for repair. While you might think that the phone's lock screen pin is secure enough to be in the repair shop for a few days, there are in fact data recovery applications that can be used to extract your phone data even when the screen is locked.
Asharaf Rogers, Technical Manager at weFix – SA's leading smart device repair specialists – explains, “Mobile phones, as with most tech devices nowadays, are incredibly private in terms of the volume of personal information they contain. In fact what most people fail to remember is that regardless of how new their mobile phone is, the information stored in their smartphone is way more valuable than the actual device.”
Rogers warns that customers need to be very careful about who they hand their phone to for repair. Many new repair kiosks are popping up in South Africa and customers need to ensure that the technician is both adequately qualified to do necessary repairs and also trustworthy in terms of the data they can access on the device. Rogers suggests these four key steps to consider before handing a phone over:
· Are you using a reputable technician? An expert will be certified, will fully understand ESD safety requirements and know how to handle dangerous situations such as a swollen or exploding battery. On the other hand, use someone without the requisite skills and you run the risk of a completely different problem appearing on the device, as well as misaligned screens or frames, or a device that was working before (think cracked screen but still functioning) that is now completely unusable.
· Even though a surprising 30% of people have never backed up (according to Cloudwards), ensure you back up your device to iCloud, Google Sync or to a harddrive. This not only minimizes the risk of complete data loss as a result of an unsuccessful repair or intermittent problem on the device, but it means your private and prized data – including family photos – can be removed from the device for the duration of the repair and then uploaded once you have your device back.
· Research conducted by Protect Your Bubble shows that 57% of men are responsible for dropping their smartphones down a toilet! A device going in for a camera or battery repair could get substantially worse if information, such as liquid damage, is withheld. So ensure you give accurate and true details to the technician about what’s happened to the device to avoid the exact faults or worse, returning after the repair.
· Be prepared to surrender your passcode. If needed, you might have to turn off security features to ensure comprehensive diagnosis or repair of your device. This allows a technician to test all functions before and after repair. For example, disabling ‘find your phone’ assists in accurate testing so be comfortable with the technician with whom you’re leaving it.
67% of South Africans surveyed by Norton said they felt it was easier to control personal information before smartphones and the internet. Now more than ever, trust is everything when it comes to getting devices repaired so take the necessary precautions before giving your phone to anyone and avoid becoming a victim of crime.