Protecting your smartphone and tablet effectively

What do you do with your smartphone ? Use it to control the heating or the vacuum cleaning robot? Take pictures of your children? Take a look at your bank account from time to time or get notified about new e-mails? If you use even one of these applications, it is important to secure the entire device against external attacks.

Because even if you don’t realize it, your smartphone or tablet is often threatened by potentially malicious software on the web. The ability to have your devices with you wherever you go and constantly connected to the Internet creates additional potential dangers.

Video series: Smartphone security

What is the best way to protect my smartphone? What to do if you lose your smartphone ? And is mobile banking via smartphone secure?
Two experts answer these and other questions in our video series" Cyber -Security²".
At the same time, it is not complicated to protect smartphone , tablet& Co effectively against common threats. You can take this checklist at hand and check it off within a few minutes:

Security information for mobile, Internet-enabled devices

Immediate measures

  • Provide basic protection
    In the settings of your device, make sure that the available security features are turned on. These include, for example, the screen lock or the PIN query when starting the device. Many attacks target security gaps in the software , which are only closed by an update of the manufacturers – this includes especially errors in the operating system and in the applications. Activate the automatic update function or check regularly whether updates are available. Here’s how to make sure your device is always up to date.
    For Android devices
    For iOS devices

Install apps only from trusted sources and check the access rights
Install apps only from reputable sources and download only apps you actually need. Avoid sources where you have doubts about their seriousness. For example, do not install an app that is sent to you as an unsolicited e-mail attachment or offered as a download link. Apps that supposedly can do more than ‘originals’ are also suspicious. If you have doubts about the trustworthiness of an app or app developer, a search on the Internet is often sufficient to find out about the provider. Look for reviews, ratings and tests from established online portals. Install updates promptly. Uninstall apps that you no longer use.

Many apps grant themselves extensive access rights for no apparent reason, for example to read location data, the address book or the phone status. But this is not necessary for every app. Check critically in advance whether the access rights are really necessary for the application to function. When in doubt, it’s better not to install the app. You also have the option to remove access rights from an already installed app via the smartphone’s settings.

Important: The update of an app can also lead to changes or extensions of the access rights and an app, for example, suddenly gets access to the address book after all. You should therefore regularly check the access rights granted and consider whether you want to continue using the app under the changed conditions.
We have compiled more information on the subject of app security for you.

More convenient, but not quite as secure: the device can be unlocked via the operating system with a pattern lock. In doing so, draw a certain track across the screen with your finger. Make sure that wipe marks of your finger do not give away the pattern by cleaning the screen of your device regularly. Whether it’s a PIN or a pattern, make sure you have privacy when entering it so that no one can spy on your combination.

Activate interfaces only when necessary
If several circumstances come together, an attacker in close proximity may be able to read data transmissions. It may therefore be advisable to deactivate wireless interfaces, such as Bluetooth , WLAN or NFC , in the settings of your device if you do not need them. This will also save battery power.

Do not let your device out of your sight
To protect your devices from unauthorized access and tampering, never leave smartphones and tablets unattended
You can remotely lock lost or stolen devices using various apps. Some device manufacturers offer their own apps that can be used to recover a stolen device.
Important: Make sure you use a trusted provider for such apps .
To lock your smartphone in the event of loss, many such apps simply require you to send a predefined message with the correct command code to your own cell phone number. This means that your personal data on the device is deleted or can no longer be accessed. It is also possible to have a smartphone or mobile-enabled tablet tracked by its IMEI number – a unique serial number – under certain conditions via the network operator. Make a note of the number in advance.

Protect your data
With modern smartphones, the encryption of the internal memory is pre-set. The data on an SD card is usually not protected by the device’s storage encryption. Photos and other data can thus be read externally by removing the card.
To encrypt an SD card, it must be "formatted as internal". If the SD card is formatted as portable memory, the data on the card is stored unencrypted.

Back up the data on your mobile devices regularly to a suitable backup medium – this can be USB or online storage, for example.
Important: You cannot read an SD card formatted as internal outside of your smartphone.

Measures if required

  • Clean up all memory before you sell or dispose of the device
    If you resell, give away or dispose of your phone, be sure to wipe the memory of your devices. Otherwise, data traces may remain that may give the new owners or criminals private information about you. Resetting the device to factory settings renders all data in the internal memory unusable. You can find the menu item for this in the settings.
    Remember to remove additional storage media such as an external SD card. Such an SD card can be safely erased using a reader on a PC. You should also always remove and destroy the SIM card – if you do not want to continue using it. Don’t forget to cancel the associated contract if necessary.
    We have compiled detailed instructions for deleting data on smartphones and tablets as well.

Check numbers you don’t know before calling back
Be suspicious of calls with unknown or suppressed number. Some scammers try to retrieve passwords or PINs by phone. Never call back unchecked numbers that are unknown to you. Current information on misused numbers can be found on the website of the German Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur). If necessary, have your network operator block numbers for outgoing calls to value-added services that can result in high costs on your phone bill if you are called back.

  • And service phones?
    In the case of official use, there are often further requirements to be met by the technology and the operator.


In a handy A6 size brochure you will also find our advice on safe use of smartphone, tablet& Co:

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