How to better protect your smartphone

Blog Cybersecurity

Smartphones are of great interest to cybercriminals. After all, they play an important role in online banking and combine a lot of private data. It is therefore all the more important that you protect your smartphone – and thus yourself – against data theft, hackers and the like. In this article, we will tell you about four of the most effective protection strategies.

What sandboxes have to do with smartphones

Compared to the typical desktop computer, your smartphone has an important security advantage: it is based on so-called sandbox technology.

The image of an actual sandbox explains well how this technology works: Separate, isolated areas are set up in a system – the “sandboxes.” A program running in such a “sandbox” is restricted to that area only. It cannot cause any damage to the rest of the system, even if it is programmed to do just that.

On smartphones, all apps run in their own sandbox. This isolates them from each other and from the operating system.

Those who know this better, understand why certain protective measures are particularly important for smartphones. And also why antivirus apps for smartphones are only of limited use – because they also run in their own sandbox.

Attention: Jailbreaks (iOS) and rooting (Android) compromise the sandbox technology of the affected smartphones. To put it simply, the restrictions of the respective operating system are broken – even those that serve to protect it. The expanded access rights can also be exploited by cybercriminals.

Four important protective measures for your smartphone at a glance

  1. Password / PIN make it more difficult to access personal data in the event of theft.
  2. The latest updates close newly identified security gaps.
  3. Using apps from reliable sources reduces the risk of installing malware apps such as Banking Trojans.
  4. Strictly restricting access rights of individual apps can prevent malware apps that are installed nevertheless from causing damage.

1. Password / PIN 

Cybercriminals are especially interested in the very attractive data that is stored on smartphones. Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, sometimes even bank data. If a smartphone is lost or stolen without a password or PIN, criminals can access this data particularly easily. Therefore, lock your smartphone at least with a PIN or password that is not easy to guess.

2. Updates

What applies to computers also applies to smartphones: Make sure that the apps and the operating system are always up to date. This makes it more difficult for cybercriminals to exploit security gaps.

Good to know: Updating an app can change its access rights. Therefore, check promptly what the respective app wants to access. You can learn more about why access rights are so important below.

3. Apps from reliable sources 

Similar to malware for computers, there are malicious apps for smartphones. For example, they can cause costs, spy on your bank access data via false entry screens, encrypt your smartphone and demand a ransom, and so on and so on.

Important to know: However, these malicious apps cannot install themselves. Therefore, cybercriminals try to trick you into installing the respective app. Therefore, the more critical you are with every new app, the better.

Only install apps from reliable sources, i.e. the official app stores.
Never install apps from email attachments or links that you have received via SMS, for example, from a supposed parcel service. Always take the detour via the official app store. If the app in question is not available there, your alarm bells should start ringing.

4. Restriction of access rights

You remember: Each app runs in its own sandbox and cannot access the operating system. But depending on their access rights, for example, to your address book or SMS. Thus, malicious apps can cause great damage.

Access to your SMS enables, for example, interception and misuse of one-time passwords sent via this route during online banking.


  • Check carefully which access rights each app requires and, if necessary, do not grant them or install the app in the first place.
  • Be especially vigilant about the access rights to your SMS.

You want to protect your smartphone even better?

On the website “Protect smartphone and tablet effectively”, the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) presents further protective measures in addition to those mentioned here.

Perhaps you even want to devote yourself to protecting your smartphone even more comprehensively? Then the BSI offers a good starting point with its “Configuration recommendation based on operating system-specific means for use with increased security” – available for Android and for iOS respectively.