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How To Protect Sensitive Data on Smart Phones: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7



A study from Consumer Reports found that 4 out of 5 smart phone users don’t protect their sensitive date with something even as simple as a passcode or PIN to keep unwanted people from being able to view that data. To help you avoid having this info accessible in the event that your phone falls into the hands of snoops, we will show you how to lock your phone regardless if it is an iPhone, Android, Blackberry or Windows Phone 7 device.

In their State of the Net Survey, Consumer Reports asked respondents if they locked their smart phone so that things like contacts lists, online banking site information, and even medical records accessed from the phone would be protected. Only 20% said they did, even though it is a very simple thing to do with all four of the major smart phone platforms.

We will show you how to lock the four major platforms so that when you turn on that phone a passcode, pattern or PIN will be required to unlock it and get access to the phone and its data. This might be an annoyance for you, but it will also deter prying eyes from getting your data unless they are really persistent. In those cases it is unlikely that any level of security can keep them at bay.

iPhone PasscodeHow to Lock the iPhone

To lock an iPhone so that it requires a four-digit pin to get access do the following:

  1. Go to Settings, General and Passcode Lock
  2. Tap Turn Passcode On
  3. It will ask for a four-digit passcode – enter one that you can remember but will not be obvious like all one digit for example 3333 is a bad choice
  4. Re-enter the same passcode to confirm it

You are now  protected. Remember that this is only an annoyance to would-be thieves. Be sure to set up the Find My iPhone service so that you can remotely wipe the phone if it is lost.

For extra security, in the Passcode Lock screen turn off “Simple Passcode” so that you can use a more complicated password. Remember that you will have to enter that password every time you turn on your iPhone from sleep.

Here is a short video on how to do this. It is based on older versions of iOS but still applies to v. 4 and above.

How to Lock Android Phones

From the Android home screen do the following:

  1. Tap the menu button and choose Settings
  2. Tap Location & security
  3. Under Screen unlock settings choose Set screen lock
  4. Choose from the four options and follow the onscreen instructions to set your password, PIN, or pattern

Of the four options, the password is the most secure followed by a PIN. The pattern is the most convenient, but least secure. After a while the pattern can be deciphered by anyone who gets ahold of your phone. The pattern will be visible thanks to oily hands. Only a really good screen cleaning once a day will keep people from being able to see the pattern.

Android Unlock Screen Pattern

Below is a video on how to lock the phone using the pattern method:

How to Lock a Blackberry Smartphone

For Blackberry do the following from  the device’s home screen (from Blackberry Support):

  1. Click on the Options icon
  2. Choose Security Options
  3. Choose General Settings
  4. Choose either Options and then Security for version 4.0.2 or earlier or choose Options and Password for 4.6 or later
  5. Change the Password option to Enabled
  6. Display the menu and choose Save
  7. Type the password and hit enter
  8. Re-type the password to confirm it and hit enter again

Here is a video on how to set the password on the blackberry:

How to Lock Windows Phone 7

On a Windows Phone 7 device do the following (from Microsoft):

  1. Choose Start and flick left to the App list
  2. Choose Settings
  3. Choose Lock & wallpaper and then …
  4. … turn on Password and enter a new password
  5. Re-enter the password to confirm it
  6. Tap done to save it
  7. You might want to also set the Screen time-out setting while here

Below is how to set the password on a Windows Phone 7 device:



  1. Nio

    05/10/2011 at 7:03 pm

    I’d like to see a detailed comparison of security on privacy on the various platforms

    • Benjamin Voigt

      05/10/2011 at 9:34 pm

      I second this. At the moment I try to compile the security features on different mobile OSs starting with secure methods of contacts syncronization, data transfer protocols, and so on.

      I’m only a user, but I have to say that it is pretty hard to find factual information on security details on any of the platforms and their apps. I need a new phone soon, but due to requirements on my upcoming employers side it will have to stand up to several different security policies. And none of them will surplus me with any device. So either I meet their standards, or I’ll have to use analogous solutions.

      So basically, I’d welcome any article on security features of smartphones.

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