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Lost your Android Phone? – How To Secured your Private Data & Track Phone

During the Launch of the Meizu MX5 Smartphone, I was invited to Beijing by the brand and which is when just before the event I lost my phone. Again it was not stolen by someone but a case in which many of you would have gone through or could be in. I left the Motorola Droid Turbo in the Cab. Once inside my hotel’s room, I realized something missing and that’s my phone, following which connected with the Hotel’s staff who tried calling the cabbie who had left, but the number connected with the Cab Agency which was not helpful.

Next the task was to ensure no one is able to access my private information which is not just limited to photos but also Google Account, Dropbox, Social Media Accounts and any application which is installed & where I’m logged. Anyone can just connect the phone to an Internet Connection and make changes to any of the above-mentioned applications. I did make a big mistake of not having a screen lock on my phone, yes call me lazy may be, but you learn things when you come in these situations only.

Note: The following is applicable if you own an Android Smartphone.

Step 1: Find My Phone

If you have lost your phone, the first thing you need to do is visit this link or search for “Find my Phone” on Google. This works only if you are logged into the same Google account as you had on your Smartphone. You will be shown with the following screen, where Google attempts to connect with your phone and tell you the status of the same.

Locate your Phone Android

Next you have the option of Ring, Lock & Erase. Depending on the situations you are in, you should select the option. Lets say someone has found the phone and is on the way to return you back, you should select Lock option to ensure he/she cannot access your personal data, while if you are certain that the phone is lost and not recoverable you will have to select the option of Erase. Next time the phone is connected to the Internet, it would get automatically erased and you are safe that it won’t go into the wrong hands.

Step 2: Change Passwords

Once you have selected the option of “Erasing your Phone” you are still not safe since the Phone is not yet erased. That only happens when the phone is connected to the Internet, hence to stay safe it is Important to start changing your passwords. Start with the Primary Account with which the Phone was setup which in most cases would be your Google Account. Also, ensure you have setup Google 2-Step Verification on your phone and created backup codes. Next visit the Google Account security site where you find all the devices connected with your account under the “Recently used devices” section. Here you can review and also remove the phone you have lost or stolen.

Remove Android Device Manager

Step 3: De-Link Apps

Next it’s time to visit the Google Play Apps website to find all the applications you have purchased and installed on your device, again this page just shows all the applications you have ever purchased and downloaded, but not just the apps specifically installed on your device. Still a quick search through this can help you in recalling the Important applications whose passwords have to be changed. Find all the Social Media Accounts, Banking Apps, Privacy Apps, Security Apps like Lastpass, Synched browsers, utility apps etc and start changing the passwords.

There are few Important applications like bank, e-commerce sites where your accounts are logged in or travel apps like Cleartrip, UBER which can also be used by someone without the need to enter Credit Card details again. It is better to quickly change the logins for all these applications as soon as possible.

Important Points:

Once you have settled up from this panic situation, it’s Important to read the following points & ensure you have gone through each one of these considering that you would be buying a new phone.

  • Location ON: Always ensure that your device Location is set ON. This ensures that you can find the location of your device if misplaced, lost or stolen. Again this just gives you an idea about the location but not the 100% accurate one, still that helps at times. It does not cost, while does not take any of your 3G / 4G data but does drain your battery quite a bit.
  • Fingerprint Sensor: If buying a new phone, it is Important to ensure that there is the Fingerprint Sensor available on that phone. Every Android phone comes with a few security options which range from PIN Code that’s very easy to crack to the Pattern Lock that’s almost hard to crack but anyone can get lucky. In the case for your convenience you setup a very simple pattern lock, then you have given someone an easy way to access your personal data. In view of all this, the fingerprint is not just the most convenient way to unlock your phone but also the most secure one.
  • Alternate Phone Number: Always ensure you have an alternate mobile phone number which is at your home. This is something you should use for all your 2-Step verifications because that ensures that in case you lose your primary device, you can still access all your personal accounts. Since the 2-Step verification option sends a 4 to 6 digit password to your phone, that’s not available since lost, the whole process becomes unusable and also is dangerous. Guess you have already lost your phone & cannot even access your email accounts because the passwords are sent to the device which is not with you? It is a crazy situation isn’t it? Better listen to this advice & configure an alternate phone number to all the apps & services which send you the authentication / verification codes.
  • Set-up VPN: Since the Google services (Gmail), Facebook & Twitter are blocked in China you need to always use a VPN service to access the previously mentioned services. The main reason I could not locate my phone when lost was because of this blockage, hence I would recommend everyone to use free proxy services or apps on your phone. Ensure that these are always ON so as to stay connected to your accounts.

This article is based on my personal experience & is recommended to anyone who has been in a similar situation & also to someone who uses an Android phone. Feel free to add a comment below or send me a tweet & I can try my best to help you in this situation.

By Amit Bhawani on Sunday 18th of Oct 2015


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