PROTECT YOUR ANDROID DEVICE
There are plenty of options if you’d like to safeguard your Android device from theft, with the Market brimming with apps to protect your handset – including apps from big-name security firms that have been tailored to Google’s OS.
Companies such as BitDefender, Norton and McAfee all offer slick apps with similar theft prevention features, most of which are controlled through web interfaces. Location tracking uses the geolocation components inside your device to pinpoint its exact position on Google Maps, and it’s possible to remotely lock your phone. If it’s turned off, it will hit lockdown as soon as the device is booted again.
There’s a more drastic option common to these apps: the ability to give your phone a factory reset if it’s fallen into the wrong hands or, if you’d like to attract attention, the option to sound a blaring alarm by pressing a button on the software’s website.
Some of these apps go beyond the normal range of features. Kaspersky Mobile Security can encrypt contacts, folders and files to ensure they’re kept safe, and can display a customised message if your phone’s lost or stolen. McAfee WaveSecure will automatically lock the phone if the SIM card is changed.
These apps aren’t cheap. WaveSecure and Kaspersky offer seven-day trials, but you’ll have to cough up money if you’d like to continue using them. Norton, meanwhile, doesn’t let you use its alarm, location and locking features unless you pay for the full version.
Look outside of the big brands and a host of other apps offer better value for money. We’ve seen how impressive the open-source app Prey is on laptops, and its Android version offers more features than the big names – for free.
As well as providing location tracking, phone locking and alarm services, it will also track the IP and MAC information of any networks your phone is accessing. If you suspect your phone is stolen, you can send a text to remotely activate Prey to begin tracking your device. You can also grant the app administrator privileges, ensuring it can’t be uninstalled by more tech-savvy thieves.
Theft Aware 2 is available for a US$15 one-off fee, and has a range of features that will appeal to technical users. As well as offering all the options already mentioned above, it has a few additional tricks up its sleeve. It’s possible to have the phone secretly call another number so you can eavesdrop on a burglar, for instance, and you can change the application’s name and hide the GPS icon so that Theft Aware’s functionality is less conspicuous.
There are further options if you’ve rooted your phone. Theft Aware can be installed to the system partition so it won’t be affected by factory resets, and can be rendered completely invisible, rather than simply hidden (not visible from the app drawer). It’s an impressive range of features but, conversely, it’s also an extremely deep level of integration that might put people off – after all, security apps are dependent on a certain level of trust between developer and user.
PROTECT YOUR IOS DEVICE
Tracking, sending a distress message and remotely wiping an iOS device is a simple job. When you set up your iOS 5 device, you’ll have been asked if you want to turn on “Find My iPhone or iPad”; in the event you said “no”, you’ll find the option in your device’s Settings menu. It won’t work at all if you’re not signed up to Apple’s free iCloud service.
With iOS’ built-in tracking software, Find My iPhone, you can trace the location of your device – and even send it a warning message
To track a lost device, simply log in to www.icloud.com and head to “Find My iPhone”. Your device’s location will be pushed to you and, thanks to Wi-Fi geolocation, even GPS-less devices such as Wi-Fi iPads and iPods can be found, as long as they’re attached to an internet-connected basestation. With your device located on the map, click the blue Information icon for more options, including pushing a message to your device, locking it remotely (with a PIN code) or, the nuclear option, wiping it remotely.
The service is obviously most effective on iPhones, which have a persistent connection to the internet without needing to be logged into a wireless network and, of course, won’t work at all if your device is wiped and paired with a new iTunes account. Your chances of effectively sparing your blushes or finding your device are greater the faster you act.
NEXT PAGE: How to set up Prey to track your stolen laptop (Walthrough)