Mobile phones are now-a-days capable of performing significantly beyond their very own basic concept of handling calls and messaging.
Being called as just mobile/cell-phones initially; evolving into smart-phones and treading over the course of time have now been developed into super-phones.
If your device is having diverse capabilities in performance then chances are that you won’t be thinking of having, for example, a dedicated camera for high quality photo & video-graphy or carrying a laptop all the time to check e-mails or communicate with your friends.
Mobile devices and more importantly the user data are of critical nature for the owner and in the unfortunate event of losing the device; privacy of user data can be at stake if no security is enabled.
While, it’s been discussed in the past that what measures can be taken if mobile phone is stolen/snatched and probability of getting back a stolen/snatched mobile phones is practically zero, the purpose here is to present different security functionalities being offered by manufacturers or application developers.
SIM Card & Phone Lock Codes:
There’s no device, no matter low-or-high end, that doesn’t offer basic security functions of protecting SIM card and mobile phone with PIN (Personal Identification Number) and lock-code respectively.
PIN and phone lock codes can be changed from default (0000 for PIN & 12345/0000 for lock code) to values that can easily be recalled by the user.
Additionally, PIN check request can be set to “ON” and device protection through lock-code can be enabled. PIN and lock code settings are enough to provide a two step security process whenever mobile phone is re-started.
In most of the cases when mobile phone is stolen or snatched, the very first action taken by the culprit is to switch-off the phone so it won’t be possible for the person to get the phone work on next start-up. Enabling phone lock code ensures more security than anything else, let alone the fact that snatcher/thief will definitely try to start the phone with his own SIM card.
Moreover, some mobile phones have the option to set a time delay (in minutes) after which phone gets locked automatically. This option can be helpful for those who don’t want to get into the hassle of unlocking the device every time they want to use it since phone will be locked only after considerable amount of inactivity time.
Nonetheless, even if mobile phone is locked user can still receive phone calls without the need of unlocking it.
Mobile tracker feature can mostly be found in Samsung and LG mobiles. Mobile Tracker is one of the best built-in solutions that a manufacturer can provide; in case of mobile phone theft.
If tracker settings are enabled and someone tries to use the phone with different SIM card (than what has been used to set-up the tracker settings) an SMS is sent to pre-defined recipients containing short message, sender’s name and IMEI number of the device (see image below). Importantly, the message is received from the new SIM card that has been used and sender will have no knowledge about the message being sent nor will the message be saved in outbox/sent items of the stolen device.
Low-end mobile phones (e.g. Samsung E1105) can have only two recipients in trackers settings while Sender info (My Samsung in above instance) can be set to any text string to recognize the device by the recipient.
Also, recipient’s contact number must be provided in international format (+92xxxxxxxxxx) and a password is required to setup the settings (default being 12345).
Mobile Tracker feature with enhanced functionality is also present in Samsung Galaxy S Smart-Phone
- (Settings → Location and security → Set mobile tracker)
And they’ve announced that Galaxy S II will be having more focus on security functions as well.
A free online account is required to be registered at Samsung Dive’s Website and this account will be required to enable tracker settings in mobile phone. Users can remotely work with the phone provided that it’s connected to the data network and can also wipe the data through website (depends on region), however, basic functionality of mobile tracker will still be present like low-end mobiles.
Remote Phone Locking in Nokia Symbian Devices:
Nokia Symbian devices (S60v3, Symbian^1 & Symbian^3) come with a useful built-in functionality of remotely locking the phone through SMS
- (Settings → Phone → Phone Management → Security → Phone and SIM Card).
This feature proves to be handy when you’re away from your phone or, in case of theft, other person is still using the handset with your SIM card. This settings can be enabled by providing device lock code (default is 12345) and remote-locking-message (minimum length 5 characters).
Whenever, an SMS is received at the target device containing remote-locking-message (case sensitive), phone automatically detects and locks the device and upon successful lock operation, a feedback is also sent.
Remote-lock feature enabled with phone lock code (Lock If SIM Card Changed) ensures that phone won’t be useable by other person, albeit, it doesn’t guarantee that stolen or lost phone will be recovered. However, remote-locking-message should never be more than 8 characters in length because remote-locking-message is also set as password of memory card and you won’t be able to access your memory card on any other device since it won’t accept any password of length more than 8 characters (formatting will be required resulting in loss of data).
Find My Phone in Windows Phone 7:
Find My Phone
- (Start → App → Settings → Find My Phone)
is a free service by Microsoft which can be exploited to remotely work with your windows phone 7 devices.
Any Windows Live account can be used to activate this service on the device and remote commands can be sent via text messages from http://windowsphone.live.com. This service can be used to send commands for different operations like ringing, locking of phone and displaying a message on screen, showing the location of device on a map and erasing all the user data. Details can be found here.
MobileMe For iOS4 Devices:
All iOS 4.2 devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) can use MobileMe application to obtain remote locking, ringing, mapping and remote wiping functionality.
However, the catch here’s that MobileMe requires paid subscription to work after 60 days of trial period.
However, fortunately if you own device-of-the-year (Apple iPhone 4) then you can use Find My iPhone application which is free of cost and part of MobileMe service.
After setting up preferences in application, target phone can be remotely worked with from http://me.com or any other iOS device compatible with Find My iPhone application. Anyways, this service isn’t available for all countries.
BlackBerry Protect by RIM:
After the success of BlackBerry Messenger, RIM is all set to introduce a new software application for BlackBerry platform i.e. BlackBerry Protect.
BlackBerry Protect project was started last year and beta testing has also been conducted but final release of the software is yet to be seen. This application aims to provide similar sort of features offered by Windows Phone 7 and iOS devices. If you own a BlackBerry Smart-Phone then you may register for updates and RIM will let you know once it’s available for download.
Important Things to Note:
- PIN & phone lock code security are important but forgetting these codes may result in blocking of SIM (PUK & PIN2 required) and mobile phone (re-flashing won’t reset the lock code). So it’s always advised to make a note of changed lock codes to avoid any problems.
- It’s moral responsibility of device seller to reset all device lock codes and turn-off tracker/remote-lock setting before selling mobile device. Buyer of mobile device is also advised to obtain the lock code from seller and restore mobile device to its factory settings which’d delete all settings including tracker/remote-lock (device lock code won’t be affected)
- As always, never forget to make a backup of your important data on periodic basis.