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Lost Phones & Personal Information: Precautions & Recovery [Guide]

Things were a lot simpler and safer back when the mobile phone technology was new, and in use by only a few people. Then came the SMS, which was then followed by making internet access available on these mobile handsets. Today, over 45% of the world’s population is covered by a 3G mobile network, while countries, such as Norway, Sweden, Ukraine and the United States are already moving to 4G networks. Over 90% of the worlds population is covered by 2G networks, supporting GPRS and EDGE. Point being, with the rise in demand and supply of smartphones, and with these devices slowly becoming affordable as well, more and more people are increasingly connecting to the internet everyday and communicating very sensitive information at times. With this need, and at times, the urge to stay connected, our mobile phones today carry more than just our phonebook and texts.


Lost mobile phones back when monochrome LCD screens were a huge hit, may have caused the owners’ heart to break, but being seriously concerned about the contents in the phone that a finder will get hold of in the mobile phone, is a concept that has only recently sprung up. Today, we take the features and capabilities of our phone for granted, without thinking twice about the serious issues that content lost to someone else, can pose. Pictures, memos, videos, bookmarks, passwords etc. are just a rough sketch of what your mobile phone can reveal about you.

Smartphones are bundled with security options, existent in the OS itself, such as Android, iOS, Blackberry, Symbian, Windows Mobile and Windows Phone 7, but a lot of us are either reluctant to use those, or do not fear the worse. I’ve lost a few mobile phones, and every time I wished I had put up passwords and stuff. My SGS II lies with no security enabled on it right now. Humans are inquisitive, and I will not blame someone, who finds a fancy phone lying around, for wanting to go through it even if it is returned to the owner or the police. People will want to look at your pictures, your emails, passwords and more. Why? Because they can, and you let them.

If you really want to connect the dots, your location check-ins via Foursquare, Latitude, Facebook etc, and your contacts in the phone, coupled with photographs, are a stalkers’ paradise. Email accounts and Social Networking profiles can give that person a deeper access than the phone originally could have. A nasty tweet (if you’re big on twitter) can pretty much ruin your fan following, regardless of any tweets about you losing your phone later. Your phone carries your entire social life in it, and you just handed it over to an unknown person, just because you were too lazy to take some precautionary measures.

Ways to protect your phone & information.

At the least, set a lock on your phone, be it a security pin or a pattern lock, or be it a pin lock upon a reboot. These are things that come natively to most smartphones, and the average user should be easily able to set these up.

Android iOS app restriction iOS

I could go on telling you to not to set apps like Facebook or Twitter clients to remember passwords, but that would become a serious pain sooner or later, and totally ruin your experience of a phone. Both Android and iOS have a plethora of tools that can lock individual apps and processes for you and while at it, do more than just password-protect them. Be sure to set the password limit to 10 attempts, whereby all data on the device will be erased after 10 wrong attempts.

As mentioned earlier, internet connectivity may have plunged our data into one tiny device, but that connectivity can help you recover your phone as well in case you lose it, provided your GPS was enabled before you lost your phone. There’s always the classical triangulation of cell tower signals, but you can’t do that, and chances are, not many companies will do that for you either. Besides, out goes the SIM and you don’t know what carrier the phone just jumped to. So, the best practice to observe whenever you lose a cellphone is to report the loss to the police, make copies of the paperwork, and inform your service provider by giving them the phone receipts and the police report you just filed. They may be able to help you out when the phone is activated by someone else. Ultimately, it can all come down to the IMEI number, which you can add to the global Missing Phones database and maybe, just maybe, once your phone is activated, you may be contacted. There are local websites as well, catering to a specific region or city.

Now, we discuss what you can do by taking matters into your own hand, and if, by luck, the person holding onto your phone is a lesser geek than you are.

CylayCylay is Cydia app, so yes, you need to have a jailbroken iPhone for this. The app, apart from the obvious tracking features, lets you remotely lock the device, backup your data, and even wipe it. You can remotely activate audible alerts, just in case the phone is in nearby vicinity as well. The app, however, considering the features it offers, is a paid one. For more information on the app, head over to the official Cylay webpage.

Find My iPhoneFind My iPhone is a feature native to iOS 5 and comes as a part of the whole iCloud service. While a lot of people are actually put off by the existence of iCloud, Find My iPhone is actually one impressive feature you get for free. This feature locates your phone on a map for you, remotely locks and wipes your data, and some anoyingly loud alarms can also be set. Read more about this feature as a part of our detailed review of the features of iCloud for iOS 5.

Plan BPlan B for Android, may confuse you a bit if you install it without reading what I’m about to tell you. This is the only phone finder app out there that you can load onto your device after losing it. Simply install the app from the Play Store to your account, and if your device isn’t already connected to the internet, as soon as it does, it will install on the device and determine the location of your device via GSM signals, GPRS or GPS, and you will get an email on your Gmail account as soon as the device determines the location of the device. Send “Locate”  as a text message on your number to start the process once again. Do consider the fact that once you receive an email, so will your device that is already configured with that account.

Download Plan B

Read full review

Where's My DroidWhere’s My Droid is another free app that can be useful for the less alarming situations, as well. If you’ve misplaced your device, you can send a text to the device, which will trigger an increase in the Ringer volume to the fullest so you can hear the device ringing. However, the more important tracking abilities do come along as well, and all that needs to be done is to send a text message to the device, and once a location is determined, you will receive the coordinates on a map in your email address.

Download Where’s My Droid

If you know of any better solutions or tips regarding this prevalent issue, do let us know in comments section below!


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