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Are you ready to lose your phone? One of the things that I’ve been asked about recently is mobile phone security. If you have a smartphone, a mobile phone of some sort, chances are there’s a fair amount of information on it.
Now, the first thing a lot of people are concerned about is hacking and malware and those kinds of things. Even just recently, there’s been another vulnerability disclosed about how phones can be hacked in some interesting ways.
You know what? That’s probably not the biggest threat. The biggest threat is something way more subtle yet way more mundane, and that’s simply losing your phone. Or having it stolen from you. Physically, phones are so wonderful in that they are small, and they’re mobile, and you can take them with you wherever you want. The problem of course, is that they’re small, and they’re mobile, and they fall out of pockets, or get left behind on benches, or who knows what else?
What if that happens to you? Some stranger walks up, picks up your phone, they have your world in their hands. What can you do about that? If you have a smartphone, there are two things I want you to do and possibly a third.
So, here’s my phone. It’s currently with Verizon wireless as my mobile provider. This is a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. First thing you’ll notice is that if you turn it on (hopefully you’ll be able to see this), what you should see is not a set of icons but you’ll see instead, a number pad. The first thing I want you to do right after watching this video is, I want you to put a PIN lock on your phone.
Mine’s a simple 4-digit number. It’s meaningful to me. It will prevent someone from just wildly picking up my phone and being able to do anything with it. There are other technologies. I know that you can use a swipe pattern; you can use fingerprint identification on some phones.
I honestly don’t care what you use, but I recommend that you set something up immediately, because not only does it keep honest people honest, but it actually does end up as a frustratingly good first layer of defense against thieves and people who just somehow end up with your phone in their possession. It prevents them from accessing your world.
Now there are two interesting aspects of the PIN code – at least on my phone. One is, if you get it wrong ten times, the phone will self-destruct. And by self-destruct, I mean it will simply erase everything that’s on it, which is pretty much what you want.
Getting it wrong ten times in a row is not something you or I are going to do with our own phone. We’re going to remember our own pin codes. If somebody has gotten it wrong ten times in a row, chances are they are trying to break in.
The safe thing to do, the right thing to do is for the phone to erase everything on it, and then therefore, no longer be of interest to the hacker as anything other than a naked phone. The other thing, though, that a PIN code will do is it will prevent the data connection from being able to access any data on the phone.
Like most phones, mine has a USB connection on it, and using that USB connection, I can copy files to and from the phone without any problem. Of course, if that is the case, that means then that if anybody can hook up a USB cable to my phone after they’ve stolen it, they theoretically would be able to access whatever data I happen to have placed on that phone.
The PIN lock prevents that from working. It allows the phone to keep on charging through the USB cord if that’s what you wanted to do, but it will prevent data from being able to be accessed. That can be very important depending on the sophistication of the person who has your phone, who ends up with your phone.
So that’s the first thing I want you to do. The second thing I want you to do is, I want you to go to the Android device manager on the web. That will actually, for Android phones, allow you to set things up so that you can locate your phone if you’ve lost it.
And, in fact, you are also able to ring it (which, of course, you can do by calling it), or there is, in fact, a remote wipe option, so that rather than having to wait for a hacker to get the PIN code wrong ten times, you can just say, “You know what, I’ve lost my phone. I don’t know where it is or it’s in some place where I know it shouldn’t be. Wipe it. Just erase all of the data off of it right now. I’ll deal with it some other way.”
The Android device manager does require that, you have location services enabled on your phone, which is fine. Honestly, if you’re paranoid about that, if you’re concerned about location services on the phone somehow exposing you to some higher level of tracking or something, then you probably shouldn’t have a mobile phone to begin with, because all of that could be done by the authorities if they need to, just using the cellular network or the data network that you’re probably already using.
Enabling location services allows you to know where the phone is going to be, and in fact, it will actually allow you to allow trusted others to know where the phone is as well. So, you’ll need to enable location services on your Android phone for this to work, but it will then allow you to quickly and easily determine where the phone is and whether or not that’s something you want to be concerned about.
I know that iPhones have something similar. I’m not as well versed on the iPhone but they definitely have the same kind of thing associated with your Apple account. You can log in and find out where your phone is. One of the interesting things you can do if you’ve got an Android phone, and you’ve got it associated with your Google account, is you can just Google, “Where’s my phone?” and one of the things that will result in the search results is (if all of this is enabled) a map showing you where Google thinks your phone is.
Very convenient. It’s a great shortcut if you forget the URL for the Android device manager. Now, I talked about a third thing that I actually happen to have, but it may not be something that everybody needs. It may not be something that you all want to jump on but it is something to consider.
And that’s third-party software that gives you an additional layer of tracking and control over your phone if you happen to have lost it. Now, I happen to use a service called Prey Project and one of the things, it does much of what Android device manager allows you to do. Like the Android device manager, Prey will tell you where your device is or at least its last known location.
But you can do a few more interesting things with Prey, like send a message to the device or sound an alarm on the device or lock it, completely, or like the Android device manager, you can wipe the device. Prey also happens to work with laptops so I’ve got it set up for my laptop that I travel with all of the time. Again, in case I lose that as well.
So it’s something additional to consider. It’s probably not something for everyone. It is not a free service. There is an annual charge. It’s not terribly bad. But it is something to consider if you have multiple devices, or if you do a lot of traveling, or if you want an additional layer of control above and beyond what things like the Android device manager or the Apple equivalent have.
But, bottom line is that there is so much that we use our devices for these days, there’s so much information that’s either on the device or easily accessible through the device that it pays to have some level of security on the device. At a minimum, add a PIN code. Do it now, and then go visit the Android device manager and have a look and see what you need to do to set up that opportunity to recover your device and potentially even nuke if recovery is not going to be an option.
Let me know what you think. Here’s the URL for this article if you’re watching it anywhere but on askleo.com. Go here to the askleo.com site. Leave your comments. Let me know what kinds of things you’re doing to keep the data on your mobile devices secure. Do you use a PIN code? Do you use something else? Have you used something other than Prey for tracking or keeping track of your mobile devices? Let me know what you do.
But of course, above all things, set that PIN code. All right?
Thanks again. Talk to you again next week.