15/09/2015 06:55 BST | Updated 15/09/2016 06:12 BST

Protecting Brand Me

Social media has revolutionised the way we communicate, engage and perceive the people around us. In an age where statuses, 'likes' and photo uploads document our every move, our identities and reputation are firmly shaped by our social presence.

Our smartphones put social platforms at our fingertips and a few quick swipes is all it takes to snap, filter and share key moments. It's great that technology allows us to engage on social media so easily. But what happens if your phone gets into the wrong hands?

With research finding that approximately three million smartphones are lost, stolen or damaged every year in the UK, it's clear these devices - that we rely on to manage our everyday lives - are increasingly falling into the wrong hands. What's important to remember is that when lost and stolen these devices aren't just a headache for you - they're a direct route to your social channels and bank account details, all of which can be accessed if your device isn't adequately protected.

To help you protect yourself and your personal data in the future, here are my top tips for safeguarding your mobile device in the event that it becomes lost or stolen.

Smarten up your passwords

It's essential to PIN protect your device. While not infallible, this is the first barrier of defence that anyone trying to gain access to your device will need to penetrate. You can personalise the settings on your mobile so that a PIN code is required each time you open your phone, making it tricky for others to get around it. As ever though your phone is only as secure as the password you put into it so make sure you avoid guessable combinations such as a birthday or linear sequence such as '1234'.

You can also set up capabilities to remotely change passwords to your email and social accounts, which will come in handy if your device goes missing.

If it matters, back it up

If you lose your phone, the most effective way to ensure your personal data and content doesn't get into the wrong hands is to wipe your device remotely. Make sure that all of your data and important information is backed up to the cloud so that if your phone is lost or stolen, your information won't be compromised. Most smart devices have an automatic cloud back up service, which can be activated in your settings hub.

If you're not paying you're the product

Always remember if you're not paying for a product/service the likelihood is you are the product. What this means is that the data you are sharing, in return for the service, could potentially be sold by that service provider to the highest bidder.

When downloading apps, games or online services always make sure you check permissions - what information are you sharing about yourself in return for the service? And more importantly ask yourself this, am I comfortable with my personal information being shared with third parties in return for this service?

Be cautious when downloading apps

Our recent Internet Security Threat Report analysed 6.3 million Android apps and found that one million of these were classified as malware - that's nearly one in six apps. To avoid falling victim to rogue apps always make sure you download content from the official application store. While these apps are still vulnerable to attacks, the official store is less likely to host malicious content than unregulated app stores.

Press the self-destruct button

We suggest you take action as soon as you finish reading this blog. Download an app or service such as Norton Mobile Security that lets you lock your phone and wipe the data in the event of theft or loss. Although your device may be gone, you'll at least be able to protect your identity and confidential information from thieves. You can also activate a "Lost Mode" function that will allow you to track the device's last known location and snap a silent picture of the individual using it.

Taking a proactive approach to smartphone theft is the only way to ensure your personal information (and identity) remains secure. By following the five tips above to secure and back-up your data - before a smartphone is stolen/lost - you will stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.