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Protect your Personal Information from Phone and Laptop Thieves

If your laptop, tablet, or phone is ever lost or stolen, your personal information could be vulnerable to thieves. The first step to keeping your it safe is, of course, to protect your devices in the first place. Always keep an eye on your phone or laptop,  never leave it unattended or out in the open, use tools like laptop security locks to discourage theft in crowded areas, and put distinctive and hard to remove markings on your laptop. Unfortunately, you can’t always prevent theft. Read on to learn how to protect your information in the event your device goes missing:

 

Macs:

  • Encryption: Account passwords can be easy to crack, and if a motivated thief has physical access to your computer, they might be able to read your hard drive externally. You should use encryption tools like Apple’s Filevault 2 to prevent this. Enable Filevault:
    • Go to System Preferences, then click Security and Privacy
    • Click the Filevault tab and use your administrator password to unlock the controls
    • Click turn on Filevault
    • You can choose to use your iCloud account to unlock your disk and reset your password if you forget it or create a local recovery key to keep somewhere safe (other than the encrypted disk)
    • Warnings:
      • If your forget your OS X account password and the local recovery key, you will not be able to decrypt your startup disk.
      • The initial conversion takes a long time, slows your computer significantly, and you can’t stop it once it has started. You must keep your laptop plugged in.  
  • Find My Mac: You can also use Find My Mac to find your device and protect your data in the event your laptop is lost or stolen. However, you need to enable Find My Mac before your computer goes missing. To set up Find My Mac:
    • Go to the Apple menu
    • Click on System Preferences > iCloud
    • Check on the box to turn on Find My Mac
  • When you want to find your computer, login to iCloud.com on another computer or download the Find My iPhone app on another device. From there, you can
    • Find your Mac on a map
    • Make your Mac play a sound
    • Remotely lock your Mac with a passcode and display a message on the screen
    • Remotely erase all your personal information from the Mac. If you are going to remotely wipe your machine, you’re going to want a backup.
  • If you can’t find your Mac, make sure you change your Apple ID and all other passwords and report the theft



iPhones:

  • Encryption: Apple offers an easy encryption feature for iPhones. Follow these steps to enable it, just go to Settings > General > Passcode, and create a passcode to be entered immediately after you try to use your phone. Scroll to the bottom of the passcode page and make sure it says “Data protection is enabled”
  • Find My iPhone: Just like with your Mac, you can use Find My iPhone when your phone gets lost or stolen. You have to enable it first:
    • Go to Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone and switch the toggle to on
    • When you want to use the feature, go to icloud.com/find or use the Find My iPhone app on another device.
  • If your phone goes missing, you can use Find My iPhone to do the following:
    • Make your phone play a sound
    • Put your phone into Lost Mode -- lock it, display a message, track it on a map, and disable Apple Pay
    • Erase your device. Remember, if you decide to erase and restore your device to factory settings, you won’t be able to track it or use Find My iPhone anymore.

 

Windows Machines:

    • Encryption: Bitlocker is Window’s built in encryption tool. You can find a beginner’s guide to it here. You can investigate the top 5 encryption solutions for Windows, Linux, and/or OS X here.
    • Find my Device: Windows 10 now offers a device tracking feature like Find My Mac. However, Find my Device cannot wipe your laptop, make it play a sound, or make it display a message.You need to enable it before your computer goes missing.
      • Go to Settings, then navigate to Update and Security, then Find My Device. You’ll need to be using a Microsoft account
      • To find your device even when it’s not powered on or online, select “Save my device’s location periodically”
      • Give your PC a meaningful name under “rename my PC” if you wish
      • When you want to find your device, go to account.microsoft.com/devices and use the Microsoft account you used to set up Find My Device
  • Remote wipe: Remote wipe is more difficult to do on a windows machine. You can explore your options here, but your best choice may be to rely on encryption, instead.

 

 

Android phones:  

  • Encryption: If your Android device doesn’t have encryption enabled by default, it is easy to turn on. For Android 6.0 Lollipop or later, go to Settings > Personal > Security > Encrypt phone. Your phone will prompt you to create a password and plug in your phone while it is encrypted. Don’t forget your password! If you have Android 4.4 or earlier, set your pin in settings before following the above steps.
  • Find your device: You can use Android Device Manager to keep track of your Android devices, remotely erase your data, ring your phone, lock your phone with a password, and locate your device on a map. As with the other remote features, you have to enable these Android Device Manager options before your phone goes missing. Go to https://www.google.com/android/devicemanager?u=0 to turn the feature on, then respond to the request sent to your mobile device. Make sure you are aware of the limitations of the Android Device Manager wipe. For example, read-only SD cards will not be wiped, if you have more than 1 SD card only the primary will be wiped, and wiping is not available on some devices like the Motorola Xoom or Galaxy s4.