Securing Your Android Device
What to do if your Android phone or tablet is lost or stolen?
"Help! My bag got stolen with my phone in it and I don’t know what to do. Can the thief see my stuff? Can I use the phone’s GPS to get it back?"
From time to time I hear from Android users who have lost their beloved device. It’s a scenario all of us smartphone and tablet owners dread. Your phone slips out of your pocket in a taxi, a thief snatches it out of your hand when you’re sitting at a sidewalk cafe, or you wake up one morning and you just… can’t… find it!
Suddenly your precious, beloved, ever-present window into the Internet is far less than ever-present. Fear, anger, and frustration quickly settle in. Your whole life was on that little piece of plastic, metal, and silicon. And it wasn’t cheap! What to do?
Here are a few basic suggestions to help protect you in the event your Android device is lost or stolen. Some of these are preventative measures, and others are things you can try after you’ve discovered it’s missing.
THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOUR ANDROID DEVICE GOES MISSING
Add a screen lock
This simple preventative step will help stop anyone who gets a hold of your device from using it to access your email, contact list, notes, photos, social media apps, and other private stuff. It only takes a moment to set up but can provide a lifetime of relief knowing your stuff is more secure.
For Android phones running version 2.x visit:
*Settings > Location & security settings > Set up screen lock*
For devices running Android 3.x or 4.x visit:
*Settings > Security > Screen lock*
You have the option of locking your device with a pattern or PIN. Some Android 4.x users also have the option of unlocking using facial unlock, where the camera just looks at your face to make sure you’re you.
While you’re in the Security Settings area, take a look at the other options available to you. Locking the screen is a simple, basic line of defense but you might be even more comfortable adding some additional layers of security.
Turn on Google Latitude
Most modern mobile devices include a GPS chip that can pinpoint it’s location. If you don’t mind a little extra battery drain, Google Latitude will use the GPS chip and wifi signals to keep track of where your phone is at all times. There are a few other benefits of this for Google Maps, but for purposes of this post all you need to know is that it can help you find your missing device if it’s not close at hand. Simply visithttp://www.google.com/latitude from a computer and you’ll be able to see where your phone or tablet it at.
Do note that this only works as long as your phone or tablet has battery power. If the battery runs dry, your device can’t broadcast its position.
Install an app to help you find your device
There are several apps that claim to help you find a missing phone, but often these solutions require that you install their software before you’ve lost it. Try searching the Google Play Store for [ lost phone ] to see what’s available. I don’t have any specific recommendations but I advise you to read each app’s reviews to see if it’s something you’re interested in.
Make a note of your phone’s IMEI number
Mobile phones all have a unique number identifying them; you’ll need yours if you ever need to fill out a police report or make an insurance claim. It’s usually printed right on the phone’s box, packing slip, and/or sales documentation.
THINGS TO DO AFTER YOUR ANDROID DEVICE GOES MISSING
File a police report if your device was stolen
It might seem like a long shot, but if you’re the victim of theft I recommend filing a report with the police. After all, if the authorities ever recover your phone or tablet they won’t know it’s yours unless they have your report on file. Note that you’ll probably need to provide your phone’s IMEI number for the report (see above).
Change your Google Account password
This is especially important if you didn’t have a screen lock on your device (see above). To prevent access to stuff attached to your Google Account, change your password from a computer. You can change your password by visiting https://www.google.com/settings/ and clickingSecurity on the left side of the page.
After you’ve changed your password, the next time your phone checks in with Google it’ll note the password has changed and prompt anyone using it for the new one. Which, of course, they won’t have.
Important note: changing your password interferes with my next suggestion so please keep reading.
Install Plan B
Plan B is a popular Android app. Its main claim to fame is that it is “the first and only ‘find my phone’ app that you download AFTER you’ve already lost your phone.” Even if you’ve already lost your phone you can visit https://market.android.com/details?id=com.lookout.labs.planb from a desktop computer, then remotely install it on your phone.
Once it’s on your phone you can use it to track your device. See the link above for detailed instructions.
Important note: if you changed your password as I outlined in my previous suggestions, you won’t be able to remotely install any software. You’ll have to make a choice — is it more important to protect your account or locate your device.