Our mobile gadgets are loaded with PII--personally identifiable information--and other nuggets of private data. Making matters worse, our handheld devices are easy to misplace. (Just ask the Apple employee who left his iPhone prototype at the bar….)

Here’s a sampling of the sensitive info that’s found on most smartphones:

  • Passwords to unencrypted websites (Facebook, web-based email providers, etc.)
  • Wi-Fi network info
  • Personal information stored in third-party apps
  • Calendars and contacts
  • Notes, documents, photographs, and more

In the wrong hands ... well, let’s not think about it. Fortunately, there are a few ways (requiring varying levels of effort) to protect your smartphone – and yourself – from snoops. Here are five ways to protect yourself and your information.

1. Easy. Set up a password lock:

For Android: Go to Menu > Settings > Location & Security

For Blackberry: Go to Options > Security Options > General Settings

For iPhone: Go to Settings > General > Passcode Lock

For added security, you can set up automatic wipe-out protection when someone repeatedly enters the wrong password.

2. Essential. Set up remote data-wipe capability -- if you lose your phone, these allow you to remotely erase data.

For iPhone: Go to Find My Phone

For Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone: Go to Lookout Mobile Security

3. Best practice. We know, we know. Staying current with OS updates can seem like a fulltime job. But it’s worth it. These updates often include important security patches.

4. Smart. Read the fine print before installing third-party apps. What kind of information will these services collect or share? Do an overall “sniff test” before downloading anything, and make sure it comes from a reputable source (i.e. an official app marketplace).

5. Gold-star material. Install a malware detector and firewall (for Android, Windows 7, or Blackberry).