Kate Russell’s Mobile Security

Kate Russell’s Traveller’s Web – smart about security

Losing your phone is a horrible feeling, especially when you’re travelling and it is your only real link back to the life and people you have temporarily left behind. But our phones are no long just a hunk of plastic and circuitry used for making a call. We generally keep a lot of sensitive information on them and if they fall into the wrong hands it can be devastating.

Your first line of defence is to lock the screen with a passcode. According to net security specialist, Sophos, a staggering 70% of people never bother to do this, and yet research has shown that when someone finds a lost phone they are highly likely to go rooting through it looking for personal or business information, even if not with criminal intent.

Leaving an unlocked phone somewhere silly opens up your personal life to whoever wants to take a look, allowing easy access to emails, notes, contact lists and personal photos – not to mention any banking or shopping apps you leave logged in as a matter of course on your handset.

Have a browse through your apps now and take a moment to consider the impact of a criminal getting hold of that information. Now go into settings and set up a passcode if you don’t already have one.

Finding your lost phone

When you first realise your phone is not in your pocket the next thing to check is that you haven’t just left it somewhere silly, like under the seat in a car.

There are apps available in every flavour that will help you locate a missing phone via GPS – Windows, Android, iPhone, Blackberry – just search the relevant app store for something like ‘find my phone’ and make sure you enable and register your own solution before you leave home.



Lookout Mobile Security does this and more, with a complete security suite for iPhone and Android. The core features are free – like antivirus and malware protection, contacts back up and that all important ‘find my phone’ feature.

Missing phones can also be located by sending a ‘scream’ instruction to your device so that it makes a loud noise wherever it is hiding.

If you want to use the remote lock and complete data wipe feature for the worst case scenario then the $3 a month premium subscription has your back covered. Another nice feature of the full account is the ability to control which apps have access to your personal data, giving you peace of mind security from within the handset too.

It’s also a rather handy way of backing up photos and swapping your contacts over to a new phone even if you’re switching network and platform; just back up from one handset and then restore the data to a new destination. Job done.

Remote wipe options:

If you don’t want to pay for a premium app to wipe clean your data in an emergency, iPhone users can set up the feature in Settings > General > Passcode Lock > Erase Data. Turning this feature on means that if any phone hackers get hold of your handset and attempt to break in by brute force, at least they won’t get hold of any sensitive information – hopefully your travel insurance will cover the rest (you did take out sufficient cover for the one high-value item you’re most likely to lose, right?).

For Android users there is an app called Autowipe that allows you to set up the same scenario.Belon.gs_


Not every lost phone falls into criminal hands, but if you’ve sensibly locked yours with a passcode, how is an innocent finder supposed to know where to return it?

One great solution is to stick on a tag registered at Belon.gs. This is a global lost and found service that uses QR Code stickers to mark an item, allowing people log on to the website and arrange returning items to you.

Personal users can apply for a sheet of tags free of charge – though you’re given the option of making a payment for additional good ‘karma’ if you like.

When I ordered a sheet they took about a week to arrive. If you’re wondering how a business like this can operate free of charge, there’s a monthly subscription plan for business customers that has a bunch of additional corporate features.

When you register a tagged item you provide contact details and can even offer a reward if you like, using a credit card or PayPal account to fund it. Finders and losers are linked up anonymously so they can organise the return of the item directly. What a great use of the oft-lamented QR code at last, and essential peace-of-mind for every smart traveller.