Your smartphone isn’t as safe as you think it is. Here’s how to fix that.

Nov 4, 2019, 4:03 PM
smartphone safe data...
Photo: Getty Images

Chances are, you’ve walked into a cell phone store and handed over your smartphone for a repair or upgrade. You unlock your phone, and an employee gets to work downloading and transferring your photos, contacts, text messages and personal data to a new device. But is your smartphone — and whatever is on it — safe?

In this case, the customers who handed over her phone to a Verizon store clerk in Park City likely had no idea that the clerk had a criminal history dating back five years.

The clerk is now accused of transferring explicit photos from her phone to his phone via text.

How she cracked the case

Court records paint a picture of a simplistic, not-so-sneaky approach. Police say the customer remembered the clerk’s first name, Esteban, and that he was the clerk she left her phone with as she left the store to pick up a child.

After she retrieved her phone, police say the woman went home and used her laptop to sync text messages. That’s when she noticed several explicit photos from her phone had been texted to a number she didn’t recognize.

Within days, police zeroed in on the store clerk, booking Esteban Dejesus Anica, 24, into the Summit County Jail.

What’s on your phone?

There’s a good chance the victim had no idea about the store clerk’s history. Court records show Anica pleaded guilty in 2015 to a drug charge, and again in 2018 to a drug and weapons charge. She simply did what many of us do: ask a cell phone store clerk for help fixing a smartphone.

When we unlock and hand over our devices, we essentially give strangers the keys to our personal kingdom, experts say.

“Even your email may have sensitive data in it that you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands,” Earl Foote, owner of Nexus IT in Park City, told the Dave & Dujanovic show.

How to keep your smartphone safe

The case sparked a discussion between cohosts Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega about how we can protect our photos and other sensitive data. Foote offered tips for keeping a smartphone safe from criminals.

“Most mobile phones now come with a built-in feature. It’s generally called a secure folder feature. And you can classify applications, files, photos, as secure and place them into that secure folder,” said Foote.

He acknowledged that older phones don’t offer this feature, but said there are third-party apps available that serve the same function.

Foote urged listeners to, whenever possible, use a fingerprint or facial recognition to secure as much data as possible. He says the PIN used to open your phone can often be the same PIN that opens apps. Using a fingerprint or facial recognition makes it impossible for a store clerk to get their hands on your private information, Foote said.

Debbie Dujanovic is the cohost of Dave & Dujanovic, heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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Your smartphone isn’t as safe as you think it is. Here’s how to fix that.