Ask the Expert


  1. Password-protect your mobile device and voicemail with a PIN.
  2. Memorize your PIN. Don't record it on anything you carry with you. Change your PIN periodically.
  3. Use “strong” PINs that are hard to guess. These will have upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and at least one symbol. For example, "3Dog$" is better than "1006." You may be limited in PIN selection by the type of phone that you use but do the best you can to create a strong PIN.
  4. Never use a PIN (or password) with the last four digits of your Social Security number, your date of birth, your middle name or anything else that's easily guessed or subject to ready access via other sources.
  5. Encrypt smartphones used for sensitive business communications, activate a time-out password and install an updated antimalware program and on-device personal firewall.
  6. Don't open unfamiliar attachments, emails or text messages from unknown sources. They’re likely to be harmful.
  7. Be judicious about the type of applications that you download. Many apps come with spyware or other malicious software. Consider using a more secure computer for sensitive tasks such as online banking.
  8. Delete voice and text messages with financial or personal information.
  9. Data-wipe mobile devices. Use programs to destroy a device's data if the password is entered incorrectly a certain number of times—say 10. Take advantage of software that locks the phone or erases the data remotely if the phone is lost or stolen.
  10. Before throwing away or recycling a mobile device, delete the information on it. The website provides a deletion guide for most cell phones.