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Using Private Mode to Hide Sensitive Files on Your Samsung Galaxy S5

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If you want to secure your Samsung Galaxy S5, you probably know about specifying a secure lock screen method, encrypting the phone and its SD card, and the availability of the Samsung Knox software. However, because it isn't a Security setting, you may not have noticed the new Private Mode. In this article, Steve Schwartz explains how to use Private Mode to selectively hide photos, videos, and business documents on your Galaxy S5, making them invisible to anyone who borrows or makes off with your phone.
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How serious are you about securing your Galaxy S5? The typical user selects a secure lock screen method, requiring a password, PIN, pattern, or fingerprint scan to clear the lock screen whenever it appears. If your phone contains critical business documents and data, you might elect to encrypt the entire device (phone and memory card) or employ Samsung Knox (https://www.samsungknox.com/en). My Knox, the free version of Samsung Knox, can be downloaded from Google Play.

However, no security option is foolproof and each has drawbacks. If you encrypt the phone, you must enter a password each time you power up or restart the phone. If you employ a secure lock screen, you'll be asked to unlock the phone every time that it times out. Regardless of the security method employed, if you forget the password, PIN, or other unlocking procedure, you're locked out. Finally, if you simply hand your phone to someone so they can make a call or it's snatched off your desk before the lock screen kicks in, all of your data and files are exposed.

The new Private Mode—a selective security option introduced with the Galaxy S5—may offer the middle ground that you seek. Instead of locking or encrypting the entire phone, it enables you to secure just those files that you want to keep private. When Private Mode is active, all files on the phone are accessible; when inactive, all files that you've marked as private are hidden.

Setting Up Private Mode

The first time you enable Private Mode, you must set the pattern, PIN, password, or fingerprint scan you'll use to unlock the feature. Be sure to make a note of it, as well as the backup method that you specify.

  1. Open Settings by tapping Apps > Settings, tapping a Settings shortcut on your Home screen, or opening the Notification panel and tapping the Settings icon.
  2. Tap the Private Mode icon (see Figure 1). Depending on the current Settings view, you'll find the Private Mode icon in the Personalization section (Grid View or List View) or on the Device tab, Personalization section (Tab View).

    Figure 1 Private Mode icon (Grid View).

  3. Review the information on the Private Mode screens.
  4. Specify the primary unlock method by tapping Pattern, Pin, Fingerprint, or Password (see Figure 2), as well as a secondary unlock method.

    Figure 2 Select the unlock method that you'll use to enable Private Mode.

  5. To enable Private Mode (in this and future sessions), drag the slider to the On position (see Figure 3) and perform the unlock procedure. Whenever Private Mode is active, its icon (a keyhole) appears in the status bar and a Private Mode item is added to the Notification panel (see Figure 4).

    Figure 3 The Private Mode screen (in Settings).

    Figure 4 Private Mode item (Notification panel).

When you initially set up Private Mode, a special folder called Private is created. All files that you mark as private are automatically moved into this folder. The Private folder and its contents are visible only when Private Mode is active.

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