Privacy protection: How to protect yourself should someone steal your phone
Hopefully, your phone wasn’t lost or stolen, and you’re reading this to be proactive and protect your privacy and personal identity. Taking a few precautionary steps will significantly reduce the risk associated with a stolen phone or any improper use of your Identity.
I’m going to cover what you should do as a precaution against damage if your phone is stolen, as well as what you need to do should your phone ever be stolen. This will cover everything that needs to be done to keep your information safe and protect your cryptocurrencies.
Proactive precautions everyone should take
Before diving into anything else, make sure that you have done two things:
- Enable a password or bio-metric (fingerprint or facial recognition) authentication to lock your phone.
- Call your cellular carrier and require a password for your account (something other than the last four digits of your social security number).
Safeguarding personal information on your phone is much easier to do before losing possession of it. If that information were to fall into the wrong hands, there could be unfortunate repercussions which may include social media hacking, harassment, breach of financial accounts, and more. Fortunately, Android and Apple have the ability to remotely locate, lock, and erase information from any device.
Android users will need to add their Google account to their device to access these features, which is a process most people will undergo when connecting a new phone. Below is a video outlining how these features can be used.
Apple users will need to set up their iCloud account on their phone to access the features of locating your device, playing a sound, locking the device, erasing all personal information, and preventing anyone from using the device without authorization. Apple’s support page covers how to use these features more in-depth.
Both users should be sure to backup their phones on a regular basis. Both Google and Apple utilize cloud-based services that typically do this automatically and save your most crucial information. Performing a full backup to your computer will allow you to protect everything and restore a new phone to exactly how it was before. Here are the best options for Apple and Android devices.
Mobile phone carriers are required by law to let you transfer or have your phone number “ported” to a new device or carrier. This allows you to keep your same number if you are switching carriers, as well as forward calls and messages to another phone. While this feature is very useful when doing those things, it also makes it very simple for a hacker to take control of any financial, email, social, or crypto exchange account by resetting those passwords via text message.
Armed with your phone number, all a hacker would need to do is call your mobile carrier and talk with a relaxed employee who allows them to transfer your number to a new sim card or carrier (that is one reason why it’s worth your time to call your carrier right now and set up a password for your account.) However, with proper security measures in place, there is a lot that can be done to mitigate the risk of having your phone number ported to another sim card.
The most important thing that can be done to prevent porting is setting up a password for you mobile carrier account. Some carriers even offer a feature that sets up a password specifically for authorizing the porting of your number. If you use T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint you can learn more about which options your specific provider has to offer in protecting your account.
For those who don’t mind implementing some time-consuming security measures, you can go beyond just protecting your mobile carrier account. In this Forbes article by Laura Shin, she discusses enacting even tighter security for your mobile carrier information, as well as strategies to implement in protecting all your online accounts.
Steps to take once your phone is gone
If you did not have a password protecting your phone, you will need to act quickly. If your phone has a password and you feel that the likelihood of recovering your phone is low, then these same steps will apply to you.
Erase phone data — Depending on your device, you will use either iCloud or your Google account to erase all the information from your phone. Even if the phone has been turned off, once it connects to the internet, it will begin to permanently remove any sensitive data stored on your phone. If you are not logged into your phone, you will need to start with the next step.
Notify your carrier — For the time you will be without a new phone, it would be wise to suspend your account. You should reset all of your account passwords immediately, to prevent anyone from using your number to gain access to email, financial, or social accounts by resetting your password through text. If you have not signed into your phone with your iCloud or Google you can request that your carrier erase all the data from your device.
Notify your employer — If your phone was issued to you through work they will need to know that it was lost or stolen. It is likely that they can also clear any information from the phone. Not only are you doing this to protect your personal information, but also that of your clients and projects concerning them.
File a police report — While this may seem like an unnecessary hassle for something you won’t likely see again, it can provide other benefits. For example, if you are making a claim on your phone insurance, a police report can be helpful in expediting the process.
By acting quickly, you can greatly reduce the chances that you’ll be subject to a breach of privacy. While following these steps may seem excessive, the work required to do this is far less daunting than having to clean up damage to your finances and reputation caused by identity theft.
Protecting your cryptocurrencies
Millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies have been stolen over the last few years. Once a transaction has taken place, there is no way to reverse it. This makes having a secure way to store your coins that much more critical. Unfortunately, the process of stealing cryptocurrencies could not be more simple. All hackers need is your phone number to do irreversible damage. In this article, Nathaniel Popper, of the NY Times, describes in detail just how much damage can be done in less than 15 minutes. Taking a few proactive steps will make it much more difficult to have your crypto stolen.
2FA Authentication is a must. Any reputable crypto exchange will have this as an option. In addition to your username and password, you will need another method to access your account on an exchange. Text message has been a popular way to provide that second layer of authentication, however, that is the exact method that has lost people their entire portfolios of cryptocurrencies. The most secure option would be to use an authenticator app, like Google Authenticator. The app generates a unique code that is required each time you log into your exchange. Without access to the authenticator, no one would be able to deplete your entire crypto portfolio.
If you lose your phone, it would appear that you would not be able to access any of your crypto assets: That is not the case. Google provides you with ten backup codes to access your authenticator on a new device. It is wise to physically write those codes down and hide them in a place where you or someone you trust can retrieve them if need be. This article by Eric Ravenscraft covers the in’s and out’s of using 2FA and losing your phone.
Strong passwords also need to be used for your crypto exchange. You can read more about how to create powerful passwords, here.
Storing crypto offline as cold storage is by far the most secure method for storing your cryptocurrency. It is much more secure there than leaving it in the account of the exchange you are using. Alexandr Nellson discusses in depth, different options for proper cold storage and his own personal strategy. Read more about which one would be most beneficial for you in his article, here.
Additional protection strategies. In this interview from CNBC, cybersecurity experts Jonathan Levin, Amir Bandeali, and Sanjay Beri discuss other practical strategies for protecting cryptocurrencies.
Protecting your privacy
If you have not been hacked, then you are reading this with plenty of time to make changes to your current security measures. Get started on those changes now, so that you are not dealing with the headache of having your personal information compromised later. While nothing is ever certain, implementing these strategies will go a long way to protect you from the loss of your financial, crypto, and personal assets.