The risk posed by losing a device remains among the most serious privacy and security threats we face. With GPS-based device locating and theft protection applications, it’s getting harder and harder to lose your mobile phone or other gadgets. However, not all devices have a built-in locator feature and, even if they do, these features aren’t perfect solutions to the omnipresent device loss problem. That said, such services are probably your best option as a first line of defense.
iPhone and iPad owners, you can access ‘Find My iPhone‘ by logging into your iCloud account. From there you will be able to track the location of any of your Apple devices. Similarly, the ‘Android Device Manager’ application will give you the ability to locate all of your Android devices. Windows Phone has its ‘Find My Phone’ feature and Blackberry devices have a feature called ‘Blackberry Protect,’ which essentially do the same.
These sorts of theft prevention or location tracking services are the best measure for avoiding device loss and protecting yourself in the event of theft (each service offers a data wipe feature). If you’re not familiar with these tracking features, you should familiarize yourself before you lose your phone.
What about devices that don’t have such a feature? Well, luckily there are some free Apps out there that provide the same service. The Prey Project’s anti-theft software is well-regarded and will enable you to track devices for which there is no such built-in feature. It’s compatible with Windows, O SX, iOS, Android, and Ubuntu and other Linux distributions.
Also, security companies are increasingly implementing anti-theft solutions into their products, so you may have tracking features available without realizing it. Some of these can even continue to track phone after they are stolen, wiped, or given a new SIM card.
Of course, these services have their limitations – the most obvious one being battery life (you can’t GPS locate a phone with a dead battery). So here are some other heads-up moves that may help you if you ever misplace a device.
If you're not familiar with smartphone tracking features, you should familiarize yourself before you lose your phoneTweet
It may sound silly, but labels work. Think about it: The primary safeguard against lost dogs and cats is a metal tag attached to the animal’s collar on which we imprint our name and phone number. So go ahead and print out a label with your name, phone number, and email address and stick it on your devices in a clearly visible place. It’s especially important for laptops, as they often get lost at the airport security screening.
We write a lot about bad people around these parts so it’s easy to forget that there are a lot of good and decent people out there, too. You never know; there are plenty of people in the world who make every effort to return lost goods. There is a reason why bound paper journals and planners nearly always have a “return to” field on the opening page: Some people are compassionate and like to help others.
Another old-school recommendation is to travel with luggage, laptop cases, or backpacks that stand out. Both because you’re less likely to lose colorful or unique baggage, and because it’s much more difficult for someone to mistakenly take your bag thinking that it’s theirs if you’re the only guy (or gal) in the room with a neon green backpack. Every time I am standing around the baggage claim carousel waiting for my luggage, it occurs to me how easy it would be to just walk off with someone else’s stuff – this is particularly true of fairly plain looking bags.
Similarly, mobile cases are a pretty good way to prevent device confusion. If you’re out with a group of friends, chances are two or more people have identical phones. A distinct and different case could keep you from walking off with the wrong phone.
It’s also a good idea to carry your computers and tablets in bags that don’t reveal their contents. Laptop cases pretty reliably carry laptops, which make those sorts of bags obvious targets for thieves.
As always, drop any of your own ideas in the comments section below so we can steal them and pass them off as our own for later posts!