While it’s certainly a bummer to have your smartphone stolen, it’s even worse if the thief accesses your data. To help prevent this nightmare scenario, security professionals have developed some clever solutions.
1. Enter the Wrong Password and Have a “Theftie” Taken
Having smartphones equipped with front-facing cameras has led to the cultural phenomenon known as the selfie. For thieves that steal a smartphone and enter the wrong lock screen password, a device equipped with a “theftie” security app will take a less-than-flattering picture of the thief in action, and then upload the picture to the device’s cloud storage account or email inbox.
Depending on which theftie app you go with, some pictures will even include a map of where the picture was taken. Newer versions of iPhone come with the theftie security feature. If your smartphone doesn’t have this feature, then you can download it easily enough from any app store.
2. Use the Wrong Gestures and Get Locked Out
One security technique currently under development is the ability to identify unauthorized users by how they interact with the phone. Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have successfully used the technique in trial runs to lock out unauthorized users in as little as 13.8 seconds (which isn’t enough time for a thief to access sensitive files).
The idea behind this clever security feature is that every user interacts with their own phone in a unique way. To determine if the user is authentic or not, the technique takes into consideration a variety of factors, such as the pressure, frequency, and speed of touch for the application used, how much electricity is used, and the previous 30 seconds of recent history. Seeing how a thief would be unfamiliar with the layout of a stolen phone, they would navigate the device in ways that are uncharacteristic of the phone’s owner and subsequently be locked out. On average, researchers have found that it takes 35 touches for the feature to lock out a thief.
3. Remotely Wipe Your Device’s Data
This last mobile security solution should only be turned to if you’re absolutely sure that your phone is stolen. When activated, this procedure will remotely wipe all of the personal data on the device, essentially leaving it with only the data that was on the device when it was brand new.
For mobile devices connected to your company, the best way to remotely wipe a missing device is through your mobile device manager. If you don’t have this solution, or if you don’t know how to use your MDM tool to remotely wipe your device, then reach out to IT security professionals for help. Also, depending on your phone’s service provider, you may be able to have your provider remotely wipe the stolen device by simply calling them and confirming your identity.
Considering how valuable your data is and how devastating it would be if it ended up in the wrong hands, it’s easy to see how being proactive about backing up your device’s data to the cloud will end up saving you a lot of trouble, should your device become lost or stolen.