Tomorrow is Mothers Day and traditionally that includes a phone call to your mother. But take a minute to consider the device with which you are making that call. Chances are making a simple phone call is just one of many things you do with your phone each day. Can you imagine getting through a day without your phone?


What brought this topic to my attention was an article: “20 things we don't do anymore because of technology” by Kim Komando. When was the last time you licked a stamp, carried change so you could make a call from a pay phone, looked up a word in a paper dictionary, or made a mix tape on a cassette? 



One of the items on the list was “telling time by hands on a clock.” Komando observed: “ Few people with smartphones bother with watches anymore, unless they’re fashion statements or fitness trackers. With digital clocks dominating our computers and hardware, those 12-numeral timepieces may become pure novelties.” 


Think about this. At one time everyone carried a pocket watch. Then along came wrist watches and the use of pocket watches faded into near oblivion. Now smartphones have replaced wrist watches as time pieces. Most of us carry our phones in a pocket, so in a weird turn about we're back to pocket watches, but in a high tech way. 


A good illustration of this evolution was recently done in Oklahoma City. “A new study shows that only 1-in-10 Oklahoma City kids ages 6-12 own a watch. And only 1-in-5 know how to read it. More than 150 students took the time-telling survey, which featured 15 questions. Only 31 students passed. Only 15 earned perfect scores.” 



In addition to clocks and watches, the things we now do on smartphones (that we used to do with other things) is amazing. summed this up succinctly: “There’s nothing quite as versatile when it comes to making things obsolete as the smartphone—or, should I say, phone/internet browser/camera/music player/alarm clock/reading material/calculator/photo album/gaming device/flashlight.” (


With all that said, it would seem like we should take better care of our phones and pay a bit more attention to their operation and maintenance. For example, were you aware that your smartphone can be attacked by a virus (just like a computer)? 

“Smartphones and tablets are just as vulnerable as regular computers, and malware is often used to subvert your private accounts. Your phone is a gateway to a lot of personal data, and malware is often designed to break into your email, online banking, and apps. Take your viruses seriously, because they definitely mean you harm, and they won’t go away on their own.” Information on how to identify and fight phne viruses are at:


Scammers and fraudsters are a danger to everyone with a smartphone, but knowledge is power. AARP suggest people need to “Learn the Lingo to Beat Scammers.” They have put together “a guide to the latest terms in the lexicon of larceny.” 


A few of these are good examples. Malvertising: Malicious online advertising that contains malware intended to damage or disable (your device). Phishing: The act of trying to trick you, often by email, into providing sensitive personal data or credit card accounts. Smishing: Phishing attempts that go to your mobile devices via text message, telling you to call a toll-free number. Vishing: Short for "voice phishing," the use of recorded phone messages intended to trick you into revealing sensitive information for identity theft. Knowing the lingo is a good first line of defense. More at:


Of course, having a good, strong password is an absolute must. Posting photos of your dog on Facebook and then using the dog's name as a password may not be the highest security gambit. 


Here's the problem, though. If you have a long, convoluted password with numbers, letters and symbols, it's difficult to remember the stupid thing. Plus, the odder the password, the more chances you'll make a mistake when typing it forcing you to start over again. Grrrr!


Aha! Good news. There is a solution. “You've probably heard that good passwords require at least eight to nine characters, a few capital letters, random symbols, etc. But a recent study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University proved there are other options. Unique passphrases, such as 'ilovefreshsashimituna,' were found to be just as effective. In fact, these passphrases can be more effective since they don't contain confusing numbers, symbols or long strings of odd letters.” 


Want to make your passphrase even better? “One trick that makes passphrases even more secure is to use deliberate spelling mistakes.” Like, spell Fido's name as “Fidoo.” (


Finally, I have my own secure password trick for you. The thing is that it will only work for those in the audience who have a few miles on their odometers.


Remember back in the day when home phone numbers were a combination of a word and number? For example, perhaps yours was something like “Pinecrest- 12345.” When you dialed the first two letters in Pinecrest (PI) corresponded to numbers on the dial, in this case PI would be 74. So, the your full phone number was PI-12345 (74-12345). Using the word-number combo made it easy to remember your phone number. I'll bet you still remember yours. 


These phone numbers no longer exist anywhere but in your memory. Just add a symbol and you have a pretty secure and easy-to-remember password, like Pinecrest?12345. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neffzone columns online at and