Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Are you prepared in case your phone is stolen?

Global reports on mobile theft has reported 1 in 3 phones are stolen or lost. You lose your photos, contacts, messages, data within apps and expose your identity (email, facebook, google+, banking apps) and importantly your two-factor authenticator app!

That’s quite of a risk in addition to value of your phone. Better option is to be prepared in case it happens. It takes less than 5 minutes to setup your phone so that you can remotely locate, lock and wipe it if required. If you have Android phone, here is how you do it. For iPhone users, here is another blog.

Android comes with built-in 'Android Device Manager' functionality that you need to setup. Here is how -



Step 1 - Enable 'Android Device Manager' (ADM)
Android Device Manager is functionality of Android to allow user to lock or erase a lost device. This is installed by default in android beyond Android version 4.1 (Jelly Bean). You need to tell give permissions to 'Android device manager' so that it can lock and erase data when needed.

Navigate to Settings > Security > Device Administrator > Enable check box for 'Android Device Manager'






Step 2 - Enable remote Lock and Erase functionality in Android Device Manager
You need to enable remote locate and remote lock/erase functionality.

Open 'Google Settings' > Android Device Manager > Enable both check boxes


Step 3 - Setup PIN/Password
Enable the PIN/Password for your phone. This will block anyone accessing your data and/or disable 'Android Device Manager'. No one should be able to disable ADM. Here is how to setup PIN/Password. Skip to next step if you already have this in place.

Setting > Lock Screen > Screen Lock > PIN / Password

Next time you lock your phone, it will ask for PIN/Password.

Step 4 - Go to web(on another device - tablet/phone) and you are ready to locate, lock, erase or ring your phone

Navigate to https://www.google.com/android/devicemanager and it will show you last location of your phone when it successfully located. You can click "Ring" to ring your phone even if its silent. Locate your phone, Lock your phone and erase content of your phone remotely. Do give it a try and be aware you can do this remotely anytime.



Step 5 - Note your phone IMEI 
Your phone has unique 15 digit ID which is called IMEI ( International Mobile Equipment Identity) You will need this number to register a complain to police and your network operator. Make a note of this number for future reference. You can find it by navigating to

Settings > About Device/About Phone > Status > IMEI




Pros and Cons

Pros

  • No third-party software required to install and setup. Its available in android 4.1 Jelly Bean version by default. You get performance advantage due integrated solution from android. Any third-party app will add some performance impact on memory, battery and CPU
  • It is well integrated in Android/Google ecosystem. Your phone is linked to google account and always accessible via web
  • Remotely set password on device using web interface even if your phone initially didn’t had PIN/Password set

Cons

  • No backup of your data done. You cannot get back data from phone once its lost. Note - Google does backup contacts via its account and photos/videos via google+ auto-backup. You need to set this up explicitly via Google Drive or DropBox
  • There are host of other features available from competitive products like, Lock phone when SIM changed, Capture photo of would-be thief, locking and erasing phone data with SMS commands from your friend, and working only on SMS commands if data network is not available due to SIM changed. This is where other vendors kick in to give you competitive advantage. Read my other blog on 'McAfee Mobile Security' to get all these functionality for free
For most of the people and myself, remote locate / Lock and data wipe is what is important and "Android Device Manager" fits perfectly. It is a clear winner when you want to get best of android/google ecosystem without third-party apps.

Why not avoid losing your phone in first place ?

  • Never leave your phone in unattended car
  • Never leave your phone behind in public places restaurants/pubs/coffee-shops/office/airports/cinema/etc.
  • Mobile is just any other thing that you take care to avoid loss. You know it better and can take care of it :-)


Hope this helps. Wish you don’t lose your phone and don’t need to lock or erase data - but being prepared for it is important!

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