Lost, stolen, and hacked. Those are probably three words that you don’t want to hear yourself or someone use to describe your phone, ever. But unfortunately, shit happens. You can have your phone stolen or lost anytime and anywhere. And hacking? That might be even worse since you may not even notice it happened until it’s too late.
To survive in the tech jungle (or even a real-life jungle, honestly) you need to take care of the tools that’ll get you through each day. So let’s discuss some of the things that you can do to minimize the damage from getting hacked or losing your phone (and how to prevent it in the first place).
How to Protect Your Phone From Loss and Theft
Even in 2021, some people don’t care much about their data. But the worst consequences of loss or theft are definitely from the potential to use your data. So strong security and privacy settings are key.
Sure, the phone itself (and its steep price tag) might be your first concern, but what about your photos? What about your social media and internet accounts? Banking details? Identification details? Important emails and work contacts? Most of those you can’t put a price on. So, here’s what you need to do to your phone to prevent these types of damages later on.
Use Anti-theft Software
It’s very easy to overlook setting up anti-theft software or trackers. But, it’s really easy to do and it’s often free. If you’re on an iOS or any Apple device, you just have to go to the Settings app and open your Find My device settings. Turn on Find my iDevice, Find My network, and Send My Last Location.
For Androids, you might have to download some apps, but the best one you can get is Google’s Find My Device, it’s free, and other than downloading the app itself, it’s hassle-free. You just have to set up your device, and that’s that. Although, depending on your phone model, it doesn’t always show the last location of the phone.
Just by logging into your account or by asking your voice assistant, both Find My apps can locate your phone using GPS, ring your phone, and can erase all your data if recovering and tracking the phone itself is unsafe to do.
Remember: even if you can see your stolen or lost phone’s location, don’t go there without the authorities with you. Only go there if you know you just dropped or misplaced the phone and it’s a familiar and safe place.
Backup All Your Files and Data
You should always back up your phone or even purchase a monthly cloud storage subscription. Schedule your phone to do backup your data automatically on a regular basis. The reason? In the event of loss, theft, or hacking, it’s not the phone or device that you should pay attention to. It’s your files and personal data. You should always be ready to remotely delete all the data on your phone if it’s ever stolen or hacked.
That’s where backups come in: that way you can remotely delete data on your phone but still have access to that data elsewhere.
If you have an Apple device, iCloud is the best thing to use. It’s an all-around solution that doesn’t just back up your files, but backups all your notes, contacts, messages, calendar, and photos.
For Android, you can use Google Drive. However, notes, messages, calendars, and other apps will only backup to your Google Drive if you’re also using Google Apps. They’re nice and all, but it’s an extra effort.
Now, if you love saving movies and music to your phone, I suggest that you use something like Spotify or Apple Music and Netflix or Apple TV if you want all those in the cloud as well.
Leave a Note
Good Samaritans are pretty rare these days, but if you lose your phone, you better leave a tiny note or an on-screen note (for Androids only) if you want to give the person that’ll pick your phone up a chance to return it to you.
Print or write your social media account name, email address, or phone number on a tiny sheet of paper and sandwich it between your phone and its case, just don’t include your home address!
Set Up a Good Lock Screen
There are a couple of ways to set up on your lock screen. Of course, the first one will be to set a good passcode, pattern, or password.
Second, turn off notification previews. The setting itself may vary depending on your phone, but they’re commonly found on the lock screen settings together with your password settings. Turning off previews will keep whoever found your phone from seeing sensitive messages, account notifications, and email previews.
Keep Your Phone’s Box
A ton of people are tempted to throw out their phone’s box as soon as they get it. But you really shouldn’t. It has your IMEI, serial number, and your phone’s general model and specs. Your IMEI might be the most important one there. It can be used by authorities to remotely track your phone, or if all is lost, to block your phone from ever using any data or internet again.
If you’re panicking because you forgot to write the IMEI down and you threw the box away, don’t worry. Just open your phone, dial *#06# and your IMEI info should appear. If it doesn’t show, you can also find your IMEI on the Settings under “About Phone.”
How to Prevent Your Phone From Getting Hacked
Phone hacking is not too common, actually. Hacking, in general, is not all that common. But it can happen and if you’re unlucky enough to be a victim of hacking, you’re going to wish that your phone had been stolen instead.
You can replace a phone if it’s stolen or lost, but you can’t replace your data that easily once it’s been leaked. And it’s your data that hackers are going after.
Why? In general, hackers will try to steal your identity, make purchases with your accounts, steal your social media accounts to spread malicious messages. Some people will even steal identities to destroy families and relationships for revenge. Our phones and devices are a part of us now, but more specifically, it’s the data and files that are in our devices that make our phones an extension of ourselves.
So, to prevent your online identity from literally being taken away from you, here are some quick things you can do to prevent getting hacked.
Use a VPN
Connecting to public WiFi without a virtual private network (VPN) is a surefire way to get hacked. Browsing some shady sites without a VPN is also a great way for hackers to get in. A VPN will solve this and more.
It’s essentially a private network created inside the public network you’re using that will hide your activity from others in that network — like walking in a public park with an invisibility cloak on.
In addition to keeping you hidden from hackers and snoops, a VPN can also speed up internet response, block ads, and even let you access content that is blocked or censored in your country.
Of course, your mileage will vary with a VPN since it only protects your IP address and encrypts your internet browsing. This brings us to the next tip:
Don’t Use Third-Party App Stores, Don’t Jailbreak, and Don’t Use Cracked Apps
Most hackers get their victims through malware, which is any kind of software that has a hidden code that’ll skim through all your data and try to target the sensitive and personal data that you have.
It may come in the form of a keylogger, which as the name implies, logs every key you press. When you type in your login details for a certain account, the malware will log the keys you pressed and send it back to the hacker.
Don’t use third-party app stores. Don’t pirate paid apps. And most importantly, don’t install anything that downloaded automatically, especially if it came from a sketchy website full of pop-up ads.
Finally, don’t jailbreak your devices and ALWAYS update your phone to the latest software.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is an effective wall against hackers even if they already have your login details. 2FA makes logging into an account a two-step process. After inputting your username and password, the site you’re using will then send a randomly generated code to your phone or email that you then type into its prompt.
Even if a hacker gets your login details, they won’t be able to get that randomly generated code — unless you give it to them, which is why you should never trust anybody who tells you that you need to verbally “confirm” a code sent to you.
Secure Your Passwords
Keep your password and log-in information details out of your device. I mean, you can still save your passwords through Google’s Password Manager, iCloud Keychain, and other TRUSTED third-party password managers. But simply jotting down your log-in info on an unencrypted notes file or word file is a huge security risk. Encrypting the note or word file helps, but it’s still not ideal.
For me, I write down my log-in info on a piece of paper when I’m still memorizing it. I mean, you can’t hack paper, right? And I have a safe place to put that paper. Then when I’m done, I make sure that I dissolve the paper in water with bleach, or perhaps burn the paper.
I know some of you will think paper is a little old-fashioned but that’s the point. I mean, even crypto seed phrases for crypto wallets are recommended to be written on paper. It’s cheap and hackproof.
What to Do if You Recover Your Lost, Stolen, or Hacked Phone?
I think there are only two things to do once you recovered your phone from hacking or theft.
First off, most people will think that reformatting their phone after recovering it is not necessary. But, even if you just misplaced the phone in a public space, a hacker might’ve already gotten their hands on it. You never know for sure what happened to your phone while you were gone. So just to be safe, reformat your phone!
And of course, report the incident to the authorities, especially if your phone was gone for a suspiciously long time.