We’ve all been there. You search your pockets, your belt clip, jacket pockets, every draw, cabinet, bag, couch, and floor, every crevice of your car and dog house. You wonder if you left it in the bar last night or over your friend’s house. You’d text all your buddies to see if they have it but, well, you can’t.
It’s that horrible feeling that comes over you as you realize you no longer have your mobile phone. In the past you might have first thought of the cost of having to buy a new phone and re-enter all your contacts. But now with the advent of smartphones, there’s much more to lose than the device itself.
Because our mobile devices can hold personal and work contacts, account logins, photos, and messages, losing your device means exposing your private world to strangers and identity thieves. They can browse your apps and activities, extract your addresses, download files and pictures, send all your Facebook friends fake or embarrassing content, or gain access to your bank accounts and drain them. And recreating and restoring all the content we have on our smartphones can take hours, if it is even possible.
I’ve lost count of how many phones I’ve found in bars or parks, at the beach or when running along the trails. And the most amazing part is I’ve been able to return all but a very few. And how do I do this? Because most people don’t lock their phones!!! This means I can pick up the phone and got through their contact lists and look for “Mom.” In other cases I just wait for someone to call it and say “Hello I found this phone how can I help you?”
There are some things you can do so you don’t have that freak-out moment.
Password protect your device—This is the simplest thing you can do to protect the information stored on your device. Not only does it keep strangers from accessing your data, but it may also discourage thieves from taking the device in the first place.
Regularly backup your data—Don’t be part of the 32% that only does backups once a year! Back up your data at least once a week, so you have electronic copies of all of your valuable information. This way, even if you lose your device, you won’t lose all of your data.
Don’t store your logins—Rather than having your apps and mobile browser remember your login information, type in your login credentials each time (especially for banking). This way, if a stranger accesses your device they cannot log into your accounts as you. Or better yet, don’t store sensitive data on your phone.
“Mark” your device—To mark your device, take a screenshot of your emergency contact numbers and use it as your phone’s lock screen. If someone finds your device, it will be easy for him or her to return it to you.
Write down the serial number—Record your phone’s serial number and store it somewhere other than on your device. If you lose your phone and it eventually turns up, you will be able to identify it.
Install mobile security—Software like McAfee® Mobile Security, which includes antivirus protection, app protection, backup and restore functions, and remote wipe and tracking in the case of loss or theft
Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! (Disclosures)