Your Android Smartphone is an investment. It pays to make sure that your investment is protected. If your phone is lost or stolen, you’re potentially losing more than just your phone. Smartphones often contain valuable and potentially sensitive personal information including pictures, texts, and business contacts that you wouldn’t want falling into the wrong hands. Fortunately, Android users have access to a wide variety of security-minded features and apps. The following is a brief guide to help you ensure that your Android is protected.
Set an Unlock Pattern
When you first set up your Android, set up a screen lock that you’ll enter every time you activate your phone after it goes to sleep. Go to your phone’s settings menu and find the security tab. You’ll see an option that allows you to set a screen unlock pattern. The phone will show grid of nine dots. Create a personalized pattern by swiping your fingers from dot to dot. Don’t make it so easy that someone might guess, but don’t make it so complex that you might forget. If you enter your pattern incorrectly more than five times in a short span of time, you run the risk of being locked out of your phone and may have to reset it through your e-mail account or by calling your service provider.
When you enter your pattern, it will leave behind a green trail. If you’re concerned about someone looking over your shoulder and remembering your pattern, you can disable the green trail by returning to your phone’s security settings and disabling the visible pattern feature.
If your phone still doesn’t seem secure enough, check out an app called Hidden Lock. This app makes your home screen unresponsive until you press an invisible button that you place somewhere on the screen. This app will make it seem as if your phone is frozen or broken to all but the most tech-savvy phone thieves.
Beyond your screen lock, there are several apps that can help you keep your information and data private. Hide It is a “fake” app that lets you hide pictures, videos, and other files you want to keep from prying eyes. When you download Hide It, it shows up on your phone as an application labeled “Audio Manager” with an accompanying fake icon. If you open the app, it appears to be a fully usable audio manager that lets you adjust your phone’s volume level. However, if you press and hold the audio manager icon, it opens up a secret vault where you can store and organize videos, pictures, and audio. Even if you don’t care about hiding anything, you might consider getting this app just for its impressive media organization features.
Decoy Hide Text is a “fake” app similar to Hide It that stores your text conversations. Once you set up this app, your incoming and outgoing texts won’t appear in the usual messages menu, but in an application entitled “FuzzyBalls” which is designed to look like a bouncing ball screen saver. When the screen saver shows up, shake the app and you’ll see your texts.
Your Phone’s GPS is your Friend
If your phone is lost or stolen, don’t start panicking. With the help of some incredible apps, there’s still hope.
Before you have the chance to lose your phone, take the precaution of installing Android Lost. You’ll be glad you did. It connects directly to your Google account (which you set up when you first activated your Android), and lets you access certain security features on your phone remotely using a computer.
If you can’t find your phone but know it’s close by somewhere, you can use Android Lost to set off your phone’s alarm at full volume, even if it’s on silent. If your phone is long gone, you can activate your phone’s GPS and locate where it is anywhere in the world (especially helpful if you think you left your phone in Antarctica).
If you believe your phone is stolen, you can use Android Lost to remotely delete sensitive information like text messages, contacts, pictures, and videos. You can also set it up to send text messages and incoming calls so that they show up in your e-mail, which is a good temporary solution until you get a new phone.
Phones with the latest Android 2.3 update can even take pictures from the phone’s camera and forward them to an e-mail address, possibly revealing hints about the phone’s current location.
If your phone is already lost and you neglected to download any precautionary apps, do not abandon hope! Plan B is an app that you can actually install on your phone after it goes missing using your Google account. Once installed, you can have your phone’s GPS coordinates sent to your e-mail by texting the word “locate” to your number. (Note: There are many websites that allow you to send free text messages from your computer including http://www.sendatextonline.com/ and http://www.onlinetextmessage.com/)
Taking a few safety precautions only takes a few moments and could potentially make your life a lot easier if your phone ever gets lost or stolen. It’s your valuable information, so make sure it’s protected. And remember, if you think your phone has been stolen, never try to track down the malicious parties yourself. Always report it to the proper authorities.