I’ve never lost a phone or had it stolen. Ever. Mind you, I’ve “misplaced” a silenced BlackBerry or two in my time. They’ve always been in the house, and were easily found using the BlackBerry Protect “Play Sound” service.
I may be one of the lucky ones; in 2014, 5.2 million smartphone disappeared in America; 2.1 million of those were confirmed as stolen. That’s more smartphones than the entire population of Norway.
Nomophobia, aka the fear of being without a phone, may seem trivial to some, but many people are deeply affected by anxiety over that loss of connection. If I were ever to lose my BlackBerry (hypothetically speaking of course), I would probably only be worried if I didn’t put a passcode on it. To me, it’s not about being disconnected; it’s about what someone could connect to because of me.
We know that it’s not necessarily the device that malicious parties are interested in, as much as the data it contains. Account access details, financial information, your address or private corporate documents (shame on you) could be worth far more than the phone itself.
Yes, some are just looking to make a quick buck on the phone, but more savvy and risk-taking criminals may try to plunge into your data. If that happens, you could be looking at identity theft, fraudulent charges or even blackmail. It’s devastating enough to think about that on a personal level, but what if it was happening to your company and with all of your clients’ data?
At the risk of sounding like Smokey the Bear, only YOU can prevent yourself from losing your phone. Ultimately, it’s your own habits (probably bad ones) that may cause you to and your device to part ways. So how do you prevent your mobile device from becoming lost? Here are seven ways.
- (Don’t) let it go: Putting your phone down on your coffee table is much more secure than putting it down on a coffee shop table or checkout counter. You may look away to pay or turn away from your table for a few seconds – that’s enough time for someone to discreetly (or not so discreetly) pocket the phone.
- Always be consistent: Spontaneity is overrated. Lead a boring, predictable life. Joking aside, items are less likely to get lost if you create a habit around them. Hang your keys on a keyhook, put your bag in the same corner and leave your phone by a charger. This leads to my next point: Own multiple chargers. I’m not kidding, this actually works! If you make a habit of leaving your phone near a charger, you’re more likely to find it there. I have a charger upstairs in my bedroom and another in the living room. I know my BlackBerry will always be in one of those two locations. Mind you, the battery life is amazing so I don’t charge that often, but you get the point.
- Use lock screen messages: Not everyone is out to steal your smartphone. There are some good Samaritans out there who will return lost items or hand them over to the police. Your lock screen should include “In case of emergency” and “If found” details to help your fellow citizens find the rightful owner… you!
- Check your pockets: How many times has something fallen out of your pocket? Stepping into or out of your car, rummaging through bags; you may not notice your phone lying on the ground as you drive away. Some of my pants have shallow pockets compared to others; fashion over function, I guess. I make a habit of giving myself a pat down to make sure didn’t leave anything behind.
- Own up: If you end up losing the device, make sure someone knows! Up to 38% of employees actually wait up to two full days before making a claim over a lost phone. Perhaps they hope to find it, or maybe they’re afraid of getting into trouble. There’s more trouble to be had if it ends up being the source of a leak.
- Lock it down: One of the easiest of options to secure your device is implementing the lock screen. You can choose methods such as a pattern on a 3×3 grid, a PIN (make sure it’s greater than 4 digits), a password or my favourite, the hard-to-crack Picture Password (right).
- Search and destroy: The majority of smartphone platforms offer a phone-finding feature so you can stalk it like a celebrity (actually, that’s a bad metaphor). You can triangulate its location to a small area. You hope and pray that it’s somewhere familiar, somewhere that you know it’s safe until you arrive. If your hopes are dashed, if you develop a sick feeling in your stomach, if you realize the phone is in the possession of a stranger, you can choose to cut your losses, say goodbye and wipe the smartphone remotely.
Yes, losing your smartphone is an inconvenience, especially for your wallet. But you can’t compare that to the cost of losing control over your private data. Even worse, you just granted access to your company’s data. Albeit brief, assuming it was remotely wiped, the time spent with your phone has given a stranger access to the most valuable currency around: information. If you can’t guarantee that you’ll never let your device become lost or stolen, make sure you make it as difficult as possible for anyone to skim private data from it.