Tuesdays With Mindy: When Your Smart Phone Is Stolen
Well, almost stolen. Last Thursday evening around Midnight, I went to root around in my purse, dig my phone out and plug it into the charger for bed time. But it was nowhere to be found. After several attempts to call and locate it, I slugged into bed thinking the worst possible scenario. I’d left it at the gym and someone had stolen it.
That was further confirmed early Friday morning when we called around to 24 Hour Fitness AND Fred Meyer with no luck. I even desperately searched the area around the machine where I remember leaving it.
Back at home, crying sad crocodile tears of technology loss amidst a flurry of changing passwords – Dan messaged me on Google Talk to let me know I don’t need to change the password on our credit union account after all. Google Latitude (the creepy stalker App) was showing my G2 resting snuggly within a mile radius of our gym. Lo and behold, it was napping in the vault behind the front desk. I stopped by the desk, filled out some paperwork and my sweet little cell baby was back in my hands within 10 hours of realizing it had gone missing.
It was a happy ending to a crappy morning.
There was a brief two-hour period where I was pretty sure my phone was in the hands of a “bad guy.” And the tragic consequences that could have befallen me? Very tragic. All because I hadn’t the forethought to put any security measures on my device.
Before this experience, and before I had a chance to change my passwords, someone could have had complete access to my Google (Gmail, Calendar, Google Docs), Facebook, WordPress, Netflix, Credit Union and Kindle/Amazon accounts.
How do you make your phone more secure in case you leave it somewhere stupid like an elliptical machine at your local gym?
Here are Six Easy Steps:
1. Put a security code on that shit (that’s kind of obvious, maybe)
2. If you don’t like codes, install a security pattern to unlock your phone that allows you to trace on your screen. That way all your data is a few finger swipes away. And you’re most likely the only person who knows what those are.
3. Put a lock on your SIM card. That way, if some mother-fucker tries to steal your card and install it in another phone, they will need to enter a code or password to retrieve the data. Boo-yah!
4. Install a security App – there are a wide variety available, but I’m cheap, so I’ll stick with something free like this here Lookout App. Cause it’s free. It offers GPS tracking, much like the Google Latitude App we used, but it also does cool stuff like: Scream, which is a loud ear-piercing alarm you can activate to locate your phone nearby, even if it’s on silent or vibrate.
Other non-stolen security features it offers for free (if you’re into that): Security from malware or spyware, which is becoming more common now that people are using their phones as little mobile computers and virus protection companies need to make even more money. Ahem.
You can back up your “data” which mostly consists of contacts with the free App as well. It’s gonna cost you a few more bucks a month if you want to back up your photos and call history. But you might want to do that. Or get in the habit of doing it regularly anyways, so you don’t lose two years of your life every time your phone is misplaced.
5. Have a Plan B. It’s like a really strong birth control pill for your phone. No really, you install it AFTER your phone is lost and you need to track it down in case you never got around to installing the Lookout App, even though you could do that right now. Like RIGHT NOW, you just click on the Lookout App link and install it remotely on your phone. No really, you should do that. Go on…I’ll wait here…for a minute…OK, are you back now? Good. Anyways, Plan B sends the location information to your Gmail account. Like presto alakazam.
Also, Plan B is not nearly as effective as the over the counter birth control method. What if the thief removes your SIM or turns your phone off or it runs out of batteries or, or, or? There are a myriad ways this little App could not work. So, there’s one final method of ensuring people cannot access your data. A backup of your backup. No really, all your information is pretty much lost beyond this point. But there’s one thing left to do.
6. You need to call your cell phone provider immediately and ask them to suspend your service, reporting your phone lost and/or stolen. Keep in mind, you will not be able to perform any remote wipes or track down its location after you suspend service. But, that’s the last and final way to prevent those sons of bitches from stealing all your pictures of your dogs, cats, kids and your bank account information.
Good job to us. We learned a valuable lesson together, and something bad didn’t even have to happen.