Protecting your iPhone, and protecting yourself from "smartphone identity theft"

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Our smartphones are vital to our daily lives -- but if your smartphone ends up in the wrong hands, tons of your personal information can suddenly be at risk. But there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself.

Your phone may not be as safe as you think -- especially if you have an iPhone. There's a pretty good chance you do, since Apple announced earlier this year they've sold 500 million phones.

In a test of more than one million users, researchers from Marble Labs say Apple's iOS isn't any more secure than other operating systems -- even though users think their information is safe.

Consumer Reports estimates the financial damage from identity theft through mobile devices is more than $30 billion a year.

But don't panic.

The good news is, you already have everything you need to make your iPhone more secure. It all starts with your passcode.

"We recommend you change it from a simple numeric only passcode to something that has numbers and letters. With this, there's a setting that says 'simple passcode' and by turning that off, we're now able to set a more intelligent passcode,"

This option also allows you to incorporate keyboard symbols into your passcode without a limit on length. This makes it a lot harder for thieves to get into your phone if it's stolen.

Advertisers can easily gain access to your phone by using your apps -- like doorways into your personal information, but theft is only part of the problem.

"When you're logging into your Facebook for example, they are able to combine your tracking ID to your real world identity and that's how they actually know who you are,"

With more than 75 billion downloads from the App Store, that's a lot of your information leaked to advertisers, but you can cut them off at the source.

"If you go into settings and privacy -- then advertising, there's a couple of things you can do here. One thing is you can limit the ad tracking. The other thing is resetting the advertising identifier that changes the device ID that the advertiser sees,"

Think of it as putting your phone into the Witness Protection Program. The new ID makes it harder for the outside applications to find.

Maybe the most disturbing feature is how your iPhone has been keeping tabs on you -- and you didn't even know it.

"The next privacy one is under location. If you go to system services and then frequent locations -- you can see a list of all the locations you've been. And you can zoom in and you can actually see the addresses, you know, how long you were at that certain location -- from this time to this time,"

If this totally creeps you out, you can allow certain apps to see your location and leave the others in the dark.