When my wife’s iPhone was stolen in Paris I was very happy that we had the ability to remotely lock and wipe it. But the fact that it wasn’t locked with PIN had me frantically changing email and bank account passwords at 5 in the morning.
Why the worry?
Most smartphones receive your email without the need to enter a password. They also receive bank, PayPal and credit card statements and are used by these institutions as a place to confirm a password reset. This information can be used to access your bank account, reset your password and, once that has happened you can kiss your money good bye.
And phone theft is on a steep climb. In New York City, cellphone thefts make up more than half of all street crime, with iPhones being the most popular item. In fact Infoworld has produced an interesting interactive map showing where cell phones are stolen in San Francisco which you can see here.
My early morning panic could have been significantly reduced with a simple PIN added to the phone.
I know having to enter a PIN is a pain but you don’t have to set it up to ask for the PIN every time – every 15 minutes is plenty. That’s because the first thing most thieves do is to power down your phone so that you can’t track them. When a phone is powered up again the PIN is requested even if it was last entered just a few minutes ago.
Other things you can do to keep your data safe include if your phone gets stolen include:
- Don’t store a list of passwords, PINs or personally identifying information on your phone. If you must (and let’s face it, it’s too tempting not to) then use an app that asks for a master password.
- Set up the phone so that you can find, lock and wipe your phone remotely. For the iPhone use the Find my iPhone service available through iCloud. I found a similar one on the Google Play store called Where’s my Droid but haven’t used it myself.
- Back up all of your data to a PC or the cloud. I was able to have my wife’s new phone up and running in minutes with everything just as it was before she left because we had this.
If you’ve taken the right steps to protect yourself, losing your phone will be just an annoyance. But if you’ve failed to safeguard your phone with a password, backing up all your data and installing a program that can wipe the phones data remotely, you are setting yourself up for a seriously traumatic event.