Ever left a coffee shop only to return moments later to retrieve something you’ve left behind? Traditionally that might have been a magazine or a book, but these days it could just as easily be a tablet computer like the Kindle Fire.

The loss or theft of a tablet computer might not be the end of your financial world but consider the personal information it stores. In the wrong hands, this could cause you serious problems.

[Read more: How to put music on your Kindle Fire]

With that in mind, it’s worth taking just a few moments to secure your Kindle Fire to make sure that it and the valuable personal data it stores are safe from prying eyes.

Step 1: Visit the Security page

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You’re probably familiar with tapping in a PIN code to obtain money from a cash machine – and access to your Kindle Fire can be protected in much the same way.

We won’t deny that applying password or PIN protection adds a little inconvenience but consider it essential if you carry your device with you or leave it lying around a busy home.

We’ll explain in the next step how to minimise the annoyance while still benefiting from the protection but for now, from the Kindle Fire’s Home screen, tap the Settings icon (if you can’t see this, swipe down from the top of screen and tap it there). Now tap Security.

Step 2: Set a password or PIN

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Tap Lock Screen Passcode and you’ll be given the option of setting either a PIN or password. Type a four-digit PIN (like you use for a credit or debit card), re-type it to confirm, and then tap Finish.

Want to make it extra secure? You can make it longer than four digits.

If you’d rather have a password, tap Password and enter one. It must be at least four characters long, and for extra security should comprise a mix of numbers and letters. Confirm it, then tap Finish.

Step 3: Set the PIN or password delay

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From now on, when you switch off your Kindle Fire (or leave it go to sleep of its own accord) it will request the PIN or password as soon as it’s powered on.

This is the best level of protection but it is a tad inconvenient. This can be mitigated by setting a delay before the PIN/password protection kicks in.

To set this, head back to the Security screen, then under Lock Screen tap Automatically Lock. Then choose a time, from immediately to 30 minutes. 1 minute is a reasonable compromise between convenience and useful security.

Step 4: Encrypt your data

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If you’re very concerned about privacy and the data stored on your Kindle Fire, then it is possible to encrypt the entire contents.

If you do this, you will have to enter a PIN or password every time you switch on the device.

The process does take a fair while to complete and the Kindle Fire must have at least 80 per cent battery and be plugged into the mains before you begin. But you only need to do it once.

From the Security screen, tap Encryption > Encrypt Tablet and follow the prompts.

[Read more: Get started with your Kindle Fire]

Step 5: Browse the web safely

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The Kindle Fire’s built-in web browser – Silk – also has some useful built-in security options. Most of them are enabled by default, but it’s sensible to check.

Launch Silk, tap the menu button at the top left (it’s a square with three stacked lines) then tap Settings.

First, tap Block Pop-Up Windows and set it to Ask – then Silk will always ask your permission before opening pop-up windows.

Next, tap Optional Encryption followed by Enable (this will slow down browsing a bit, but makes the connections more secure).

Also explore the options under the Saved Data heading. If you share your tablet with others, for example, we’d strongly recommend disabling the Remember Passwords and Remember Form Data options – just tap to remove the respective ticks.

Step 6: Install free security software

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Finally, remember that your Kindle Fire is a computer and, while tablet computers tend to be inherently more secure than traditional PCs, it is still wise to install reliable security software – and there are various free options in the Amazon’s Appstore for Android.

From the Kindle Fire Home screen, tap Appstore > Categories > Utilities, then select the Subcategories tab at the top left and tap Security.

You can now choose from a number of well-ranked security programs, many of which are free.

Read more: How to share photographs using your Kindle Fire