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Mobile Security

December 24, 2009

Last week I started my Xmas giving-to-strangers early. I left my phone in a taxi, joining the masses who do the same thing every month. London residents leave an average 10,000 mobile phones in the back of taxis every month!

The phone was switched off by morning, and my impassioned plea of return (offering a reward) was swallowed whole. Impossible to know whether it was picked up by the driver or the next customer. They might think they’ve scored themselves a free iPhone but the hardware will soon be locked off from the network, a small comfort.

All the content was backed up so no major loss there but the post-loss scramble for recovery has been educational on other fronts. Apple’s MobileMe subscription service (I wasn’t subscribed) could have told me the location of the device. Imagine the hours of fun tracking down the new owner! MobileMe can also remotely add a passcode lock or even remotely wipe your data. Unfortunately all of this would be moot once someone swapped out the sim card or flashed the firmware. I’m pretty sure Apple could offer some more sophisticated services given their central control of hardware locking, but the cynic in me thinks they’re probably happier selling more units.

Luckily for geeky me I had 3 backup phones sitting on my desk at work. I’m finally giving my HTC Magic “Google Phone” a chance and I don’t think I’ll be looking back. As you’d expect the integration with Google services is outstanding: turn your phone on for the first time, sign into Gmail and watch your entire contacts list get populated! The Android Marketplace for native apps is burgeoning from an open system without the censorship of Apple’s App Store. You can even use the full power of Zenbu online with our mobile friendly site. (A mobile without Zenbu would just be cruel)

My favourite feature is the security offered by the (currently free) app WaveSecure. If you lose your phone you can view its current location online, remotely access call and sms logs, wipe sensitive data and lock the phone. And the coolest thing is that you get notified if the sim card gets swapped out. Combine all these features up with some simple sleuthing and imagine the scenario now after tracking the “new user” down and calling them on their own number.

“Oh hi, I’m calling because you’ve found my phone, can I have it back please? I’m standing right behind you.”

If every phone could do this, cellphone theft would be a thing of the past.

  1. Sergios Singeridis permalink
    December 24, 2009 4:04 pm

    I dont know if WaveSecure works but for about a week now i have lost my HTC Magic. Until now it is 6 days and there is 2 possibilities 1) phone was never turned on yet or 2) wavesecure doesnt work so well? (at least with magic) i keep tracking it every day with no results so far…

    • January 20, 2010 10:21 am

      Sergios: Sorry to hear that. WaveSecure or any software tracking program will rely on the phone being turned on. If the phone goes under a bus or into a lake, we won’t be tracking it down…

      WaveSecure just gives me the opportunity to track down someone who takes my phone illegitimately. That said, now that it’s not an iPhone that may not be a problem!

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