How to Bulletproof Against a Stolen Smartphone

I’d just come off stage in San Diego and was headed to NYC for another speech when my cell rang. When I answered, the person on the other end of the line was in total OUT-OF-CONTROL panic mode. It was the client I was headed to see in NYC, who, from now on, I will refer to as Barney Fife.

John, you gotta help me. I’m in NYC already, getting ready for the conference and I lost my phone sometime in the last hour. I don’t know if I left it at the airport, in the cab or someplace in between. You’ve gotta help me out because… it gets worse.

HOW does it get worse, Barney Fife? I asked.

Well, I keep my banking passwords in my contacts app, so anyone who has the phone, has my passwords, and my contacts. There’s more. “I use my personal email to transfer files between my work computer and my laptop. Yesterday, I emailed myself an Excel file of all of the speakers we’ve hired for this conference. It has all of their W-9 tax information. And then he got to the real point – it has YOUR W-9 information, your social security number!

So now I’m getting kind of motivated to help out. Barney, I’ve got one question for you… “Did you Bullet Proof Your Smartphone like I taught you”? I’m not sure, he said. And so I asked him three questions that I want you to ask yourself:

Question 1. Do you have a passcode on your phone? If not, nothing else matters, because all of that data on that phone is up for grabs by anyone who has the phone. Yes, I have a passcode! He answered.

Question 2. Do you  sync your smartphone on a regular basis with your computer so that you have a backup of all of the data in case the phone is gone forever? “Every day”, he said.

And Question 3. Did you enable remote tracking on your phone? “What’s remote tracking?”, he asked. Oh, we were so close!

So, your phone is essentially a tracking device. The same GPS technology that mapping programs use lets you see where your phone is anytime it’s turned on. If you turn on remote tracking, which both iPhones and Androids automatically come with, you can get on another computer and see exactly where your phone is on a map. If you left it in the hotel room, you know it. If it’s driving away from you at 70 miles an hour, you can appropriately freak out. OR, you could hit the button that remotely wipes all of the data off of your smartphone. You can remotely wipe your contacts, your email, your excel files with my SSN in them! And if you have a synced backup copy, you can restore it all to a new phone and pick up where you left off. Granted, you have to buy a new phone, but that is a small cost compared to the value of the private data on your device.

So it turns out that Barney Fife had actually turned on his remote tracking but had never used it. When I explained how he could remotely track it from his computer, he found the smartphone… in his jacket pocket.

Your One Minute Mission? Turn on smartphone tracking and wiping right now! If you have an iPhone, I want you to Google the words Find My iPhone and click on the page that explains how to set it up. For Androids, Google Find My Android and go to the page on that explains the entire process. Then, test it out and see where your phone is. If it disappears, log in from another computer and lock it, wipe it or go find it.