Mobile Security for Losing Your Cellphone | By Zafir Kanji

Last week I had the harrowing experience of having my phone stolen. It was my prized possession and contained all the contents of my life including pictures, text messages, emails and the information in my apps. I’m sure your phones or tablets are just as important to you as mine was to me, but this leads me to the point of this article: mobile security. Is it worth it? Definitely.

First of all there’s wake up screen log-in on iPhones that can be configured to ask for a pin. Android users can have a pin, password, pattern, and for those lucky enough to have a phone with Ice Cream Sandwich, you have the option of face unlock. This is your first layer of defense and, unless your pin is 1234, gives you a certain peace of mind that your information is relatively secure.

Second, there are a few anti-theft applications that provide crucial capabilities in a time where your digital life is in someone else’s hands. The key here is to remember to install and set these apps up beforehand.

Lookout Mobile Security (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone) – this is one of the most popular anti-theft applications. It performs scans for viruses, warns you when connecting to an insecure WiFi network, when you’re clicking on a malicious link, offers the ability to back up your device and, in the event of theft, allows you to track your phone, remotely wipe your device, and activate an alarm even if the phone is on silent. Android premium users also get the ability to remotely lock their phones.

GadgetTrak (iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows PC, Mac OS X) – this application offers many of the same features that Lookout offers, as well as the ability to secretly take a picture of the phone’s user and email it to the registered email address, SIM change detection, and, once you have enabled the tracking feature, it prevents any changes to software settings.

Cerberus Anti-Theft (Android) – This is arguably one of the best anti-theft applications on android and definitely one of the most popular, which is saying something considering the multitude of mobile security applications in the Android market. It includes many of the features already listed, along with the ability to hide the app from the app drawer, record audio with your phone’s microphone, get a log of calls sent and received, network information and the operator the device is connected to. You can disguise the app in the applications management screen as a system framework, and if the phone doesn’t have an internet connection you can still control it via text messaging.

Prey (iOS, Android, Windows PC, Mac OS X, Linux) – another popular application that shares a lot of the features of the other apps except that most of them require Prey Pro, which is a monthly subscription that will cost you $5 a month for 3 devices or $15 for 10 devices and upwards to $400 a month. All Prey Pro subscribers receive “Prey Active Mode”  which keeps track of your stuff all the time and logs when a device last ‘checked in.’ You get 100 reports per device, full SSL encryption and a couple other features.

I cannot urge you more strongly to install one of these applications on your device. The ability to wipe your device from your home or track down your thief, in order to submit that information to the police is priceless and unfortunately something I did not experience. I had none of these measures implemented because I didn’t want to take the time to configure any sort of security. I actually had everything set up on my phone before I upgraded to Android 4.1, including Android’s hardware encryption but after the update I forgot to re-implement everything. I know this is partly my fault for not being more careful and so I hope this doesn’t happen to you guys. It literally takes 5 minutes to set up the application; a pin takes less and that will give you at least some assurance that your phone or device can be found.

Thank you for reading this week’s article, see you next week!

If you have any tech questions for Zafir, be sure to send them his way via!
Photography by Max Hurd.

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