iPhone 5 You may have a deadbolt on the front door of your house. You might have an alarm on your car and you may put your precious jewelry in a locked drawer. Why is it, then, that we can get so lax when it comes to smartphone safety? You have to realize that the smartphones of today are a far cry from the simple cell phones of yesteryear. Indeed, they’re probably closer to portable computers than “just” phones.

The smartphone is undeniably an indispensible tool. You can use it to check email, update social media, take pictures, do mobile banking, log into secure accounts, and upload videos to YouTube. Should something happen to your phone, you’re going to have a lot of worries on your hands. That’s why using security features, like 2-step verification where available, is so important when it comes to your smartphone safety. Here are six ways you can keep your smartphone safer.

Get a Protective Case

Let’s start with the physical. As careful as you might be with your smartphone, there’s a distinct possibility that you might drop it. It’s also very possible that your smartphone could get wet, get bumped, or get scratched. That’s why you may want to invest in a good protective case. Yes, it adds some bulk, but at least you can be sure your phone doesn’t get shattered to pieces when someone nudges the phone out of your hand and onto the sidewalk. Shown here is the Otterbox Commuter Series case for the Motorola DROID RAZR HD. This is pretty tough stuff.

Otterbox Cell Phone Case

Otterbox Cell Phone Case

Apply a Screen Protector

Speaking of physical protection, even though many modern cell phones feature Gorilla Glass from Corning, it’s still possible to damage those expensive touchscreen displays. Your keys could rattle up against the screen or it could even get nicked when you put it down on a table that isn’t perfectly smooth. Screen protectors are relatively inexpensive and they generally don’t hamper the experience at all.

Set a Lock Screen Password

Yes, it’s true that just about any line of defense can be hacked through, but if you make things more difficult for the bad guys, they’re more likely to move on to easier targets. In terms of smartphone safety, your first and simplest line of defense is to use a lock screen password. It’ll take you an extra second to punch it in rather than simply sliding to unlock, but it means that if you lose your phone, the person who finds it can’t start reading all your emails and messing around with your online bank accounts.

Install Security Apps

Find My iPhone App on iPad

Find My iPhone App on iPad

On your laptop or desktop computer, you probably have some antivirus and antimalware software, plus maybe a firewall too; if you don’t, you really should. The same should be true for the mobile computer that you call a smartphone. For example, Lookout Mobile Security for Android devices is a pretty robust solution that offers several security features. You might also like Find My iPhone for iOS that lets you track the physical location of your iPhone in case it gets lost or stolen.

Watch Those App Permissions

Speaking of smartphone apps, they can be just as much a source of danger as they can be a source of relief. If an app looks suspicious, don’t install it. You wouldn’t start installing random programs on your PC, so why should your phone be any different? You can keep an eye on the permissions that apps request too.

Google Play Store App Permissions

Google Play Store App Permissions

For example, the Groupon app for Android understandably asks for network access, but it also wants your precise GPS location and the ability to take pictures, read your phone status, and modify contents of your SD card. Similarly, rooting and jailbreaking may open up new possibilities, but they can also open up vulnerabilities to additional security breaches. Be careful.

Avoid Public WiFi Networks

As much as we like to find free Wi-Fi hotspots, particularly when traveling, they’re not necessarily the safest things to use. Even if the Wi-Fi is being offered by a respectable place like Starbucks or McDonald’s, you never know who might be lurking on that unsecured network, looking for devices to hack and data to steal. For the sake of your smartphone safety, it’s usually best to just use your 3G/4G data plan when you can.

Image credit: Brett Jordan / Flickr