If you’re like us, your phone doesn’t leave your side. You panic when you lose it and end up dumping the contents of your entire bag or turning your car inside out until you find it. Unfortunately, there may come a day when your phone goes missing, but it wasn’t you who absentmindedly misplaced it. In 2013, around 3.1 million American consumers fell victim to smart phone theft, which was up nearly double from the previous year. Think of all the personal information that is available on your phone – everything from photos, e-mail contacts, social media accounts and banking accounts.
It doesn’t just stop at smart phones. Many devices and equipment hosting large amounts of personal information are stolen from different industries regularly. Seventy-eight percent of data breaches in the healthcare sector are due to lost or stolen devices, a fact often overlooked by the recent focus on cyber attack. While cyber attacks are on the rise, the “endpoint” remains a vulnerable point for both personal and organization-wide data breaches.
Here are the steps that can be taken to ensure your mobile device or personal equipment is secure:
Protect your device before it’s gone
1. Use a lock
For your mobile device, create a strong password lock on your home screen. For most smart phones you are given the option of a 4-digit pass code, but most devices allow you to switch to more digits. Opt for a passcode with 8 digits, which random string of numbers, letters and symbols. Passwords should not be easy to track back to your information, such as using your first name and birth year. Even with the new touch ID technology that the iPhone has, it is still recommended to use a password. If you still have doubts with your personalized password, consider activating the option to erase all personal information on the mobile device after 10 unsuccessful attempts to unlock.
When locking a personal computer you can also create a password to log in to your personal screen or on rebooting your computer. In addition, many computers can be secured with a physical lock that prevents it from being taken at coffee shops, work or school.
2. Record the ID number
Both mobile and personal devices have a serial or ID number. When a device is reported as stolen, many police departments will ask for this number, in addition to the make, model and receipts confirming you have purchased the device. When your purchase the device, find the number on the box or etched into the body to record for future use.
3. Leave a note
In the case of a lost device, attach a note to your phone or computer with your contact information (avoid using home phone). If found by an honest person, this increases the chances of your device being returned to you. You also have the option of putting a reward amount if lost on your device, because thieves may not be able to get as much as you offer on the black market.
4. Backup your data
Mobile devices are a little easier to back up, with phone carriers and makers offering free over-the-air back services (i.e. Apple’s iCloud, Android’s Google+ and Microsoft’s OneDrive). If you phone is stolen you can easily pull your old information from one of these backup systems on to your replacement phone. You can save information from personal computers onto CD’s or other external drive options.
5. Download a tracking service
There are dozens of apps and services that can be downloaded to both phones and computers to track a stolen device. The most common app for phones is the “find my phone” app. This service and GPS must be on, but offers the capabilities to track your phone’s whereabouts and erase content. Personal computers have many similar service options that can be purchased or downloaded to track a lost device.
No one expects their device to be lost or stolen, but unfortunately, the odds are high. We encourage you to take several precautions and steps now to protect your devices, increasing the chances of finding the device and preventing a potential breach of information.