Scream! When your cell phone gets stolen

Anyone who owns a cell phone, which really is probably everyone reading this, misplaced their cell phone at least once or twice. Fortunately, dialling the number from a friend’s cell phone or landline has assisted in finding the cell phone either under a car seat, in a pocket or in the depths of a handbag.

February 21, 2012

By Fred Mitchell, Symantec Division Manager at DCC

Anyone who owns a cell phone, which really is probably everyone reading this, misplaced their cell phone at least once or twice. Fortunately, dialling the number from a friend’s cell phone or landline has assisted in finding the cell phone either under a car seat, in a pocket or in the depths of a handbag.  When, however, the cell phone has been switched to silent mode or if it has been stolen, the solution to locating a small mobile device is not so simple. 

 

Fred Mitchell

Fred Mitchell

Even more devastating than losing your mobile device, can be losing the confidential data you have stored on or accessed via your cell phone, such as banking details, e-mails and documents. This is why it is important that consumers make the connection that the information they store and transmit on their mobile device is equally sensitive to the information they’ve come to protect on their PC. A key difference is that most consumers carry their mobile device with them everywhere they go, presenting greater opportunity for loss or theft.

A website called phoneservice.org lists the top ten reasons for consumers being permanently separated from their beloved mobile cell phones.  Although “dropping it in the toilet” is number three on a list, most people will leave their mobile cell phones in a public toilet, store, restaurant or bus or taxi.  In this situation, by the time the person realises their mobile cell phone is missing, someone could have taken it – for good. It is tremendously frustrating knowing that the culprit is in the vicinity, but that there is no way to find them if the cell phone has been put on silent. When considered in this context, the need for mobile protection becomes clear.

Of the comparatively few consumers who have in fact considered mobile security, many are likely to make use of the free service offered by the cell phone manufacturer or operating system.  Unfortunately these applications usually cover the most basic of security functions such as doing backups and remotely locking a cell phone once stolen. The problem is that mobile cell phone thieves have outwitted these basic security measurements.  Security functions such as automatically locking your cell phone and rendering it useless once the sim card is removed, is much more practical.

Mobile users serious about protecting their data, as well as preventing thieves from using their expensive mobile cell phones, would do better to opt for a purpose built mobile security solution, preferably from a brand they trust to protect their PCs.

These cell phone security solutions often provide various practical applications for not only protecting your data, but also finding your cell phone once it has been a stolen. An example of such a function is the Scream.   Once a cell phone has been misplaced or stolen, the word “scream” and the user’s personal password can be SMSed to the cell phone from any other cell cell phone.  The cell phone will emit a loud alarm for 15 seconds – even if the cell phone is on silent.  This function can be activated as many times as it takes to find the cell phone.  If, however, the culprit has left the scene of the crime and is outside of earshot, the cell phone can also be located by SMSing “locate” and the same personal password to the cell phone. The user will receive two messages in response – the first with the GPS coordinates and the second with a link to a map of the location. This will enable the user to follow the cell phone and send “scream” messages until the cell phone has been located. 

If the thief has since switched the cell phone off, the user can send a single SMS command or web message with a user-authenticated passcode from any Internet connected device. This will remotely disable the protected device. A user can also remotely wipe the device. This includes removing confidential contact lists, text messages, call history, browser history, bookmarks, and any data on the device’s memory card.

What, however, differentiates this function in the trusted, paid-for security software from many of the free brands, is that the cell phone will automatically lock if another SIM card is inserted. This means that, even if you do not have access to SMS or Internet, the security software will automatically wipe the data and render the cell phone useless to anyone without your user-authenticated password to unlock the cell phone.

As the cost of aspirational SmartPhones increase, it becomes more and more important to ensure your cell phone and the data that resides on it is protected.  So look for a solution that can provide the latest functionality, ensuring you and your information are in safe hands.

For more information, visit www.drivecon.net