Protect your data when you replace your smartphone

With roughly 2 billion smartphones in New Zealand, and many of us giving away or getting rid of our phone when it dies, it’s time to think about the security of your digital identity. Follow these tips to protect your data.

How many mobile phones are there in New Zealand?

Kiwis across the country had 1.8 billion smartphones in 2014, and it was expected that we would have 2.2 billion in 2015, according to Research New Zealand (2015).

70% of us now have one, compared to just 48% in 2013. Around 1 in 3 own more than one mobile phone, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Kiwi consumers surveyed by Canstar Blue gave our Most Satisfied Customers Award to 2degrees as both their mobile phone plan provider and mobile phone retailer of choice. Skinny edged them out to win the satisfaction award for prepaid phone accounts.

In our 2015 Online Banking Award report, ANZ informed us that mobile banking has now overtaken traditional desktop online banking as the most used form of digital banking in New Zealand.

And you can all breathe a sigh of relief – according to the latest study by the University of Auckland, there is no link between mobile phone use and brain tumours. In fact, records from the New Zealand Cancer Registry show the number of brain tumours in New Zealand actually dropped between 1995 and 2010, while mobile phone use was increasing exponentially.

How often do we change phones?

We are trading in our old mobile phones more and more often, with more than a quarter of customers surveyed by Canstar Blue saying they don’t expect their phone to last more than 2 years. Gen Y were the most sceptical, with roughly half saying they don’t think their phone will give them more than 2 years.

J.C. Twining, owner of Adelaide-based mobile phone repair company Axiom Communications, says 80% of the repairs he makes are for broken glass caused by dropping a phone.

Twining has been fixing phones for 20 years and says fading batteries are the new unexpected repair need. Customers assume that – like the old nickel-based batteries – they need to let it go flat before recharging, unintentionally draining the lithium cells.

But it’s not all our fault. We may want to keep our phones for longer, buying heavy-duty cases and other protective accessories, but we can’t combat built-in obsolescence just by being careful.

University of Sydney Professor of Media and Communications, Gerard Goggin, says manufacturers are using cheaper components and different plastics in their phone handsets in order to create a “quick turnover” of products.

Twining says manufacturers are going for thinness at the expense of product quality. “If they made phones half a centimetre thicker, we’d get three times the battery life. If the glass was just a little thicker it would have much more impact resistance.”

What to do with your old phone

Many of us would say that when a smartphone handset is no longer of use to us, we either give it away to friends or family, sell it on eBay or TradeMe, or recycle it.

We’re doing fairly well when it comes to recycling our mobile phone, thanks to the government-accredited mobile recycling programme RE:MOBILE, run by the New Zealand Telecommunications Forum (TCF). 80% of phones donated to RE:MOBILE are refurbished and resold, and the other 20% are recycled for parts and materials.

All you have to do is pop your unwanted phones in a recycling envelope and then into the recycling drop-in bins at Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees stores.

If you’ve lost an old smartphone, you’re not alone. More than 25% of Kiwis admitted to NetSafe NZ to having lost their mobile. Thankfully, 65% of survey respondents were able to remotely lock or wipe their lost phone, using apps such as the Manager for Android or Android Lost, Samsung’s Find My Mobile, or Apple’s Find My iPhone.

The most important thing is to make your old phone digitally safe before disposing of it, so that you’re not giving away more than just the handset.

Safety tips for replacing your old phone

We download 53,000 terabytes of data per month as a nation, and that number is growing (Statistics New Zealand, 2014). According to Statistics New Zealand, we have 109 mobile data subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, which can be viewed as either impressive or excessive.

Even if all you’re using data or Wi-Fi for is watching funny cat videos on YouTube, a hacker may still steal your email address and contact list from that browser app data if you haven’t wiped it from your old phone.

One amazing study by the ABC showed just how much metadata could be gleaned about journalist Will Ockenden’s life simply from movements between cell towers. The ABC then surveyed readers about what information they now knew about Will – and the results were scarily accurate.

Never fear – we have some solid tips for keeping your online identity safe when you transfer your old phone to someone else.

Internet banking data

Research New Zealand reports that 76% of smartphone owners do their banking through a mobile app (2015), up from just 54% in 2013. So here’s what you need to do to clear your internet banking data from your phone:

  • Wipe all text messages to make sure you’ve deleted all messages received from your bank.
  • Never store banking PINs or passwords on your phone.
  • When you get your new phone, make your first call to your bank – and tell them your new mobile number, so you can still get SMS messages to authenticate transactions.
  • Always log out of your internet banking app when you’re done.
  • Never use public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks for your internet banking.

M-commerce (online shopping) browser data

Research New Zealand found that 48% of smartphone users browse online shopping and trading websites such as TradeMe on their mobile.

Here’s what to do before passing your phone on:

  • Clear your browser’s cache. Some mobiles store copies of web pages that contain your payment or shipping information.

Then, on your new phone:

  • In your phone settings, make sure your mobile doesn’t automatically save and store passwords or credit card numbers.
  • Never click ‘Save credit card details for later’ on a shopping website.
  • Never click the ‘Keep me signed in’ option when logging into shopping websites.
  • Always log out of shopping websites when you’re finished browsing or ordering.
  • Don′t set up one-click ordering on your new phone.
  • Choose passwords for shopping website accounts that are not easy for anyone else to guess… like your birthday or the name of your pet.

payWave apps on your phone

Mobile phone technology has grown to the point where people can use their online banking app at the check-out like they would use their debit card or credit card for a payWave or PayPass transaction. Other specialist payment apps have also made a splash, such as Apple Pay, Samsung’s Tap & Pay, and Google’s Android Pay.

Canstar Blue found that 1 in 5 Kiwis uses their smartphone to pay for small purchases such as parking using apps such as these.

To be safe, if you’ve downloaded any payment or banking apps, these must be deleted before trading in your phone.

Social media apps and data

Research New Zealand says 78% of smartphone users access their social media on their mobile phones.

When you trade in your phone, make sure you have deleted all social media apps and data from the device. The easiest way to do this is to do a Factory Reset on your old phone, usually available through the settings menu.

Choose your bank, choose your banking app

6 out of 7 of the online banking platforms we research and rate at CANSTAR have a mobile banking app for your smartphone. So it’s easier than ever before to do your online banking on your smartphone.

Just make sure you choose an online banking platform with the best security features around, and get your phone safely back to a clean slate before passing it on.

Compare Online Banking Platforms

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