Friday, July 18, 2014

Keeping your iDevice safe, and other observations on life abroad

Greetings from warm and sunny Bandung, Indonesia! In days to come I'll follow up with some more info on staying safe and connected while traveling, as I am now having to actually implement stuff I've studied and taught in sessions like the LEAD seminars. This first overseas post has to do with securing your iPhone, iPad, etc.

The urgency of having a secured iDevice was impressed on us when Rosemarie's purse, including ID and iPhone, were left in a cab and initial attempts to retrieve it didn't work. We now have contact with someone who apparently bought the iPhone 5 from the cab driver, but can't make it work because of the protections I've enabled. We have high hopes of getting it back, but only because of this process.

  • When you get an iPhone or iPad, first enable a passcode. This will be under Settings, and on my 5s it's a tab called Touch Id & Passcode - it may be different on your device. You will basically set a 4-digit PIN here, which you'll have to enter every time you fire up your device unless you have an iPhone 5s with Touch ID (fingerprint authentication). Other settings: Require Passcode Immediately, and Erase Data. You're setting things up to have the passcode mandatory for use of the phone, and also setting things up so that 10 faulty attempts to guess your passcode will erase the phone so that no one can access your data. You can also choose a non-Simple Passcode (longer, not just 4 digits), and this is not a bad idea with a 5s where you'll typically just enter with a touch of your finger anyway. On other devices this may be too much hassle. RESULT: if someone finds your iOS device, they can't just start using it as their own.
  • Next, enable the Find My iPhone service. On my phone this is located under iCloud. Yes, you want an iCloud account. This is linked to your iTunes account (Apple ID) and will enable backups and other goodies that you really do want. Once devices are registered with Find My iPhone, you can locate them on a map. You can also, if they're in the house but not where you thought they should be, play a sound on the device (a kind of sonar ping) that'll help you locate it.
  • Last, make sure your version of iOS (the operating system that runs your device) is up to date. Apple is continually beefing up security and generally improving things, and one of the features of iOS 7 (the current version as of mid-July 2014, with 8 on the horizon) is an activation lock which renders your device useless to thieves and opportunistic "finders" unless they're able to validate your device with your Apple ID.
What happens when your device goes missing? First, you pray: request for retrieval and gratitude for having followed this process. Next, fire up Find My iPhone and see if its location can be determined. Rosemarie's phone was offline (battery was dead) but I set it to relay a message to anyone who found it (Please call xxx-xxx-xxxxx) and notify me when it was back online. I could also set it to erase itself, keeping corporate and personal data secure. In this case I chose not to do that immediately, in hope that the phone would show up. By the way, this erasing of the phone doesn't seriously inconvenience you, the owner, as long as you've backed the phone up with iTunes or to iCloud. Here's another reason to want iCloud: you can have the phone back itself up every time it's connected to power and on wifi - very handy! This makes restoring your data a pleasurable chore (pleasurable compared to the alternatives).

What happened? Rosemarie's phone was offline, so I couldn't track it. In some cases, people have actually been able to track their lost/stolen phones to where they were being held. (Strong hint: let the police apprehend the bad guys - don't do it on your own.) I had a message to call an Indonesian friend on the phone, and when the new "owner" tried and failed to be able to use the phone, that message prompted a call to her and initiated what we hope will be the return of the phone.

In future posts I'll talk about options for data access while traveling (T-Mobile is an excellent partner for this) and about other elements of doing your work and staying safe while in a foreign country. Some of this will be useful also for working outside your home, by the way...

In the meantime, practice safe computing and keep an eye or hand on those valuables!

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