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Keeping Data Safe on Mobile Devices

March 27, 2012, Volume 58, No. 27

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Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

Mobile devices effectively let us take our living rooms and offices everywhere we go. Here are three steps, beyond just requiring a passcode, that help keep your data safe in case your device is lost or stolen. These instructions are for iOS (used on iPhone/iPad) and many Android devices, but other platforms like BlackBerrys and Windows Phone 7 are similar:

1) Adjust the lock timeout to less than 60 minutes. Most lost or stolen devices are grabbed within minutes of the last usage, so reducing the passcode lock interval is wise.

• iOS: Settings, General, Auto-Lock. Set it to 10 minutes or less.
• Android: Settings, Security, Automatically lock. Set it to under 10 minutes or immediately at screen blank.

2) Configure your device to wipe after 10 failed passcode attempts. This will securely wipe your information after the 10th failed unlock attempt:

• iOS: Settings, General, Passcode Lock. Set "Erase Data" to "On".
• Android: This setting is unavailable to individuals, but may be configured as part of a security profile set up by your school or center's email administrator.

3) Keep Bluetooth off when not in use. Bluetooth is useful, but can be used to hijack phone calls and data if left on. This saves power, too!

• iOS: Settings, General, Bluetooth. Set Bluetooth to "Off" when not in active use.
• Android: Settings, Bluetooth. Toggle to "Off". The 'Power control' widget can toggle Bluetooth, Wifi, and more with one touch from the home screen.

By policy, items #1 and #2 may already be configured by your school or center if you access Penn email on your device. Talk to your LSP for additional details.

Following these three simple steps won't prevent you from losing your phone, but should give you some peace of mind related to your personal and Penn data if you do.


Almanac - March 27, 2012, Volume 58, No. 27