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Simple tips to protect your smartphone from hackers

SEATTLE — You may have heard of the crime trend called “apple picking” as thieves find new ways to steal your smart phone.

It only takes seconds for crooks to hack into your phone, but there are simple things you can do right now that will protect your phone from hackers, thieves and even advertisers.

In a test of more than one millions iPhone users, researchers from Marble Labs show Apple’s iOS is no more secure than other systems, even though users think their information is safe.

Consumer Reports estimates the financial damage from identity theft through mobile devices is more than $30 billion a year.

But don’t panic. The good news: you already have everything you need to make your iPhone more secure — and it all starts with your passcode.

Go to your phone’s security settings and turn off the “simple passcode.” This option allows you to incorporate keyboard symbols into your passcode without a limit on length which makes it a lot harder for thieves to get into your phone if it’s stolen.

Advertisers can easily gain access to your phone by using your apps like doorways into your personal information, but theft is only part of the problem.

Experts say when you log into certain sites like Facebook, hackers can combine your tracking ID with your real-world identity. That’s how they discover who you are.

With more than 75 billion downloads from the App Store, that is a lot of information leaked to advertisers, but you can cut them off from the source.

If you go to settings, then privacy, then advertising — there are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself. You can limit the ad tracking and you can reset the advertising identifier. Think of it as putting your phone in the witness protection program. The new ID makes it harder for outside applications to find.

But maybe the most disturbing feature is how your iPhone has been keeping tabs on you and you didn’t even know it.

The next privacy setting is under locations. If you go to “system services” and then “frequent locations, you can see a list of all the places you’ve been — you can zoom in and even get the addresses for how long you were at a certain location. If that creeps you out, you can allow certain apps to see your location and leave the others in the dark.

Also, beware downloading third-party apps. Hackers like to download malware through them, so always be sure to verify your apps. Google has a verify apps feature for Android phones, so you can keep your personal info to yourself.

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