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Jason Ogaard: Being smart and secure about your smartphone

A few weeks ago, Apple held yet another media event.

The event was centered on its flagship product, the iPhone. Last year, Apple unveiled a larger iPhone, one with a new design. That was called the iPhone 5. In following with their naming conventions, this year’s iPhone is called the iPhone 5s. In addition to the usual upgrades such as speed the, iPhone 5s incorporates something else, a fingerprint scanner in the home button that can be used to secure your phone.

This new feature is important for one reason. It makes securing your iPhone really convenient. This security is not perfect. In a matter of weeks, security firms were able to circumvent the scanner. The scanner works by taking a very high resolution photo of your fingerprint. When you touch the scanner with your finger it scans the finger and checks for a match. If there is a match, the phone unlocks.

The fact that the fingerprint ID mechanism is just a high resolution scanner means it can be circumvented. One security firm took a fingerprint and transferred it to wax paper and pushed that onto the scanner, the phone unlocked. It’s safe to say that using something that you leave behind everywhere you go as your password is not the most secure thing to do. It is, however, a lot more secure than no security.

A huge majority of smart phone owners employ no security on their phones. The reason is convenience. I keep a four digit passcode on my phone, the least secure form of security available for my iPhone. I find it annoying to have to enter in the digits every time I want to use my phone. I do it because I want my phone to be secure if I should lose it. There is also a more secure form of passcode that utilizes the whole keyboard so you can enter numbers, letters and symbols. I can’t imagine anyone chooses that option unless they’re forced to. I don’t want to have to spend 30 seconds unlocking my phone every time I want to use it. I doubt you do either.

We secure our debit cards with a four-digit personal identification number. Would you want anyone that was able to get your debit card to be able to go to an ATM and take as much money as they wanted? What kind of information does your smart phone contain? Does it have access to your primary email account? Do you also have apps for your bank accounts on it? How about investment accounts? What about Facebook and Twitter or any other social apps? Your smart phone contains a lot more than just your bank information.

If another person acquires your primary email account they can change the passwords to all of your other accounts; banks, investments, Facebook etc. Your entire digital life is on your smart phone. A lot of your digital life coincides with the rest of your life. You should keep that safe and secure. At least as safe as you keep your debit card.

JASON OGAARD was born in Bemidji and is a software engineer for FICO, a Minneapolis based public company providing analytics and decision-making services, including credit scoring credit bureaus.