Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to protect a phone, laptop, or tablet before it gets lost.

I've gotten a few questions from family and friends on what to do when they lose their device. This is what to do when you get a new device. These steps make dealing with the loss way easier.

The first thing you should do is make sure everything is password protected. Yes, it's a pain in the ass. I hate it, too. It is a solid first line of defense.  
Windows 7
Open Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\User Accounts
Click Create a password for this account
Windows 8
Open Settings, then Change PC Settings, then Users
Click Create a password under Sign-in options
Windows Phone
Tap the App list, then Settings, then Lock screen
Tap the Password slider
From the Home Screen press the Menu key
Tap Settings, Lock Screen, then click Select screen lock
Pick a type. Password is the most secure, Swipe is the quickest
I check Owner Info and leave my email address in case someone finds my phone
Open System Preferences, then Security
Check the box Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver
iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod)
Tap Settings, then General
Tap Passcode Lock

A quick note on password security: A long easy to remember password is usually better than a short complex password. I tend to use full sentences with a weird contraction in the middle somewhere. N0bodywill’verguessthis would not be fun to crack, and is fairly easy to remember. http://xkcd.com/936/ http://www.baekdal.com/insights/password-security-usability

So now that you've enabled passwords on your devices, a random stranger can’t pick up your device and have access to everything that you do. Great, casual theft doesn't cost you everything. The problem is, this doesn't stop anyone that’s determined. Windows XP and 7 passwords can be defeated with http://freecode.com/projects/chntpw Mac passwords can be bypassed with Single user mode http://osxdaily.com/2011/04/25/change-admin-password-mac/. Android, iOS, and Windows 8 don't reset easily without access to your computer or email account.

The solution is to enable encryption on all of your devices. Remember, once a device is encrypted losing the password means you lose everything.  Here’s how on most standard systems:
Windows 7 or OSX
Download the correct version http://www.truecrypt.org/downloads
Run the program and select System, then Encrypt System partition/Drive
Follow the prompts
Next time I do this, I’ll grab better documentation of the process
Buy the developers a burger and a beer http://www.truecrypt.org/donations/
Windows 8 Pro (currently you have to upgrade if you’re not running Pro)
Search for Bitlocker Drive Encryption and open it
Expand Operating system drive
Click Turn on BitLocker
Follow the prompts to complete
Windows Phone 8
Encryption can only be turned on if the phone is connected to a corporate network
Android 4.0+
From the Home Screen press the Menu key
Tap Settings, Security, then Encrypt Device
Read and follow the instructions
iOS 4+
Tap Settings, General, Passcode
Follow the prompts
Turn Simple Passcode off
This enables the full keyboard
Erase Data can be enabled
I feel there are better ways to do this, and having my phone erase after 10 wrong passwords seems like a bad idea

OK, your device now only works for you. Your accounts are all safe, and nobody is getting the pictures of you at Disneyland. Now the big question is how you get your device back if it gets stolen? I use Prey Pro http://preyproject.com/ It installs on everything(Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, iOS), is only $54 a year for 3 devices, and will do nifty things like take a picture of the person using your phone, as well as telling you where it’s at, and wiping the device. They have a free version too, but it’s not as robust as the paid version.

What if your device never shows up, or it was dropped in a pool?

Windows and Mac
I have a file server at my house for local backup
I use http://www.backblaze.com/ for offsite in case of fire or burglary
Tap Settings, iCloud, then Storage and Backup
This will backup 5GB of data to Apple’s servers
In iTunes there is a device backup feature
Right Click on your device
Left Click on Backup
I have Google+ auto-uploading my photos
I’m using Google Voice, so my texts are saved
Gmail has all of my contacts
Google Play has all of my apps

If Google doesn’t own your life, I’ve heard good things about MyBackup Pro http://backupandroid.com/

This took me a bit longer to write out than I originally planned. I’ll get a post written this week on how to deal with your accounts when you lose a device. 

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