Smartphones have become the most commonly used tool around the world. Although their uses are virtually unlimited, and their capabilities grow exponentially every year, nobody really tells you how to use your phone wisely.
It is my hope that this article will offer some useful information, especially to those of you involved in family law matters, on how to better protect your personal information, and privacy, while using a smartphone.
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Regardless of the password(s) you used to access your phone, your ISP, or applications connected to your phone prior to a separation or divorce, change all of them. Do not tell anyone else what the new passwords are.
If you never had a password, now is the perfect time to create one.
Change phone settings
Every phone has a completely different security structure, so the best suggestions I can make is for you to review the available security features of the phone that you use and choose the security level that best suits your needs. Remember, the simpler/less strict you make your security settings, the easier it will be for someone else to access.
If your phone/apps will permit two-stage authentication, then you should activate that wherever possible. In doing so, anyone trying to access your settings or information will have to have access to more than one of your devices or passwords to prove they are you.
Don’t even draft messages with sensitive information
Many people don’t realize that notes, texts and searches are documented and saved on their smartphone for at least some period of time. Even fewer people think about the receiving party’s ability to save text messages.
The best way to ensure your written messages won’t be used against you later is to think before you type. Don’t even draft messages with sensitive information. If you are going through a separation or divorce and are angry or upset, exhausted, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, messages to or about your ex could become hateful, spiteful or even detrimental to your case.
There are apps such as WICKR or WhatsApp that can encrypt your messaging when sending sensitive information using your phone. They give you the control to delete the message on either side; however, please remember that no app is perfect and there are ways around these security features.
Be mindful of what you say during phone calls
When you pick up the phone to call someone, you expect that the information exchanged will stay between you and the person you speak with. However, in Canada, it is legal to record a conversation (audio) without receiving consent from the other person, and there are apps and devices for cellular phones, cordless phones and even traditional wired home phones that the other party could be using to record your calls.
Therefore, do not call an ex when upset, exhausted, or under the influence or alcohol or drugs. Try to keep conversations with your ex on topic if you must speak with them over the phone. It’s not hard to download a recording app, and he or she would not need to get your consent to record conversations, which could be used for evidence in court.
The cloud is not entirely secure
Many people think that the data stored in the cloud goes to a magical secure place. It does not. The cloud consists of multiple data servers located around the world which are owned by numerous parties with very inconsistent security settings. Every time you upload or save to the cloud, know that that information could be seen or used by someone other than yourself. Even when password-protected or under the best security conditions, all someone needs is the right key and they can have access to your information. So please do think twice about what you put in the cloud.
Disconnect from public WiFi / Hotspots
Just like the cloud, public WiFi and Hotspots are not designed for your safety, they are designed for your convenience. Unscrupulous parties can and do access other people’s wireless devices and phones regularly through these methods. Try not to use hotel WiFi, public WiFi or Hotspots to send confidential information. If you have to, then clear out the cache or memory of your device when you’re done, and disconnect from it when you’re not using it.