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Protecting Your New Toys (and the Data They Store)

by Tee Morris on January 12th, 2011

From ID Guardian comes this blogpost concerning a new platform for identity thieves: mobile devices. With iPads, Droids, and iPhones finding their way inside stockings and underneath trees; and as the CES calling 2011 “The Year of the Tablet” it seems that mobile computing devices and smartphones are shaping the future of the Information Age.

They are also prime hunting grounds for hackers, scammers, and thieves, all looking to compromise your most sensitive of data.

With permission from ID Guardian, we bring you their recommendations in protecting the data you store on mobile devices.

Welcome to the New Year! Around this time resolutions are made (and forgotten) and people are working on mastering their “big gift” from the holidays. If your Wish List included items from the Top Ten Most Wanted of 2010 Christmas Gifts, chances are you found an iPad under your tree, or an iPhone, Droid, or the new Windows Mobile in your stocking. These tech toys keep us in touch with friends, family, work, hobbies—24/7—and now we can slip the power of a small laptop easily into our pockets and shoulder bags.

Intuitive as this mobile technology may be, there is a great deal of liability in owning and, yes, handling such devices. Your most important data, ranging from online billpay to addresses and phone numbers of those closest to you personally and professionally, are stored on these devices. As easy as it is to enter in your PII into an iPad or a Droid, it is equally easy to lose track of your device, whether by accident or due to theft. The mantra “With great power comes great responsibility…” rings true. especially when it comes to protecting your PII.

The good news is developers are well aware of the human element when it comes to technology, and there are services out there that can help you keep track of your new tech toys and protect the data stored on them. Some of these options are free while others charge a yearly subscription fee, but all of them help you in safeguarding your mobile technology.

Apple users are offered with their mobile devices the Find My iPhone service. Once your device is “paired” with the app, Find My iPhone will allow you from your computer or from another mobile device to “ping” your iPhone or iPad. You can have your device display a message, play a sound (even if it is in a “silent” mode), or both. If you find, though, that your mobile device is not where you last left it, you have two additional options. Remote Lock will initiate a full lockdown of your device, as if it were passcode protected. For additional security you can choose the Remote Wipe option. Remote Wipe will erase all unique data on your iPhone or iPad, resetting it to the factory settings as if it is fresh out of the box.

As of November 22, 2010, Apple began offering this service for free. Unlike the other apps covered here, there is no blog support for Find My iPhone, but under the “Support” section of Apple.com are some Frequently Asked Questions, if you have any concerning the service.

Android users have a similar “lost device” locator, called iTag. The app works similar to Find My iPhone in that if your device is lost (or stolen), the website will allow you to locate your missing phone by having it play your ringtone (even overriding its “silent” setting). Unlike Find My iPhone, iTag incorporates a “social networking” approach to finding your Droid as you can enter into your iTag a Friend Locator and locate friends close by it. You can then privately or bulk message them from the iTag website. If, however, you suspect your phone to be stolen, you can lockdown or remotely wipe your Droid. iTag will also send you an alert if your phone’s SIM card is swapped out. Though its website, iTag will retrieve this new SIM number and contact the local authorities.

The basic iTag service is free. A $20/year subscription fee grants you access to all iTag options. The app developers also feature a security-minded blog geared towards mobile device users, regardless of the device you are using.

For new Windows Phone and loyal BlackBerry users, the trusted security vendor MacAfee have just acquired WaveSecure. Featuring many of the same services as Find My iPhone and iTag, WaveSecure gives you the ability to locate your phone, remote memory wiping, and tracking SIM cards swapped out for yours. WaveSecure also offers Uninstall Protection for your phone. In case your phone is stolen, WaveSecure will prevent anyone from uninstalling the app, ensuring you access to it even in the hands of its thief.

WaveSecure, available for the Android and other mobile devices as well, carries a price tag of $19.90/year subscription fee. A blog is offered on their website, but the posting is sporadic at best and specifically targets WaveSecure users.

Some other options to consider, completely app independent:

  • Read up on your phone’s built-in security features. Find out what they can do.
  • Take advantage of your mobile devices passcode functions. Whether it is a four-digit number or a trace pattern only you know, take that step in protecting your phone.
  • Get into the habit of keeping your mobile devices within reach. At home, either leave them connected to the computer or within eyesight of the computer.

Regardless if it is a free service or a yearly subscription, your data is worth these extra steps. Keeping this offered advice and considering these apps covered here, another worthwhile investment is time taken to truly understand how your new tech works. The less room you have for human error, the safer your sensitive data will be.