What to Do When Our Phone is Lost?

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l phones are an integral part of our lives, containing our most private information, such as banking, health records, and personal communications. They are also key to our digital lives. We take it with us everywhere, even when’ we’re asleep. Some of us seem to be so attached to it that we can’t live without it even for a day.

But, what happens if we lose it? It’s likely that we have never really thought about it or prepared for it.

In a recent Vox article, senior reporter Sara Morrison warns that preparing for the worst case scenario is easier than one may initially believe.

There’s nothing like spending 30 minutes panicking that you’ve lost your phone to make you realize just how devastating that loss can be … and how poorly you’ve prepared for the possibility. Access to just about everything I wasn’t already logged into on my computer was dependent on access to my phone, with my mobile-device-only password manager and multifactor authentication apps and text messages. Actually, had I even backed my phone up to my iCloud account? Didn’t I delete my backups to free up storage space? Was I logged into iCloud on my laptop? Would it even be possible to log in, since my passwords and authentication tools were only on the phone?

– Sara Morrison on Vox

Sherrod DeGrippo, director of threat intelligence strategy at Microsoft, told Vox “I don’t think most people prepare for losing their phone. Which is surprising considering how many people [have] lost their phone, broke their device, or had it stolen. Despite many people having experience here, they aren’t often taking the right precautions.”

Below is Sara’s guide on how to best protect yourself from losing everything if you lose your phone:

  • Make sure you have something to restore: Back that phone up: “If you aren’t backing up your phone, there may not be anything to get back if you lose or break it. Some of those things, like photos, may be lost forever. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to back up your phone. Here is a link on how to do this for your iPhone.
  • Your phone may not be as lost as you think: “These days, phones and many other devices come with locator services, like Apple’s “Find My.” Make sure you’ve both activated it and know where and how to access it on another device (assuming you have one) if the worst happens. Instructions on how to use Apple’s “Find My” service can be found here.
  • The cybersecurity measures that could make you life harder: “Now that you’ve done everything you can to back your phone up and possibly even locate it if it goes missing, you should think about if and how you can get into all of the apps and services you’ve put on your phone if you don’t have said phone. If you use the same password for virtually everything and don’t have multifactor authentication on your accounts, then it’ll be easy to get back into them, assuming they have a web version and you have access to a second device. Enter that one password that you’ve surely memorized by now and you’re in.
  • Put a second layer of protection on your apps: “While we’re on the topic of your phone getting lost or stolen, this might be a good time to make sure that someone else still can’t get the keys to your life even if they get into your phone — which is a possibility even if you’ve locked it with something like Face ID.

Sara closes her recommendations like this: “Finally, once you’ve got all of these measures in place, take a little bit of time to make sure you know what you have, where, and how to use it. When you first realize your phone is lost, broken, or stolen, panic might make you forget all the things you set up to protect and prepare yourself. The tool I ultimately used to find my phone was right there the whole time, but it took half an hour before I remembered it was an option. Part of the reason why is that I hadn’t used the “Find My” app on my computer in years.”

Note: I lifted only a few paragraphs from Sara’s article in this post, but here is the link to the entire article.