7 Programs to Protect and Find Your Smartphones and Mobile Devices
By Daniel Kosir | September 1, 2011
With a plethora of devices geared towards our on-the-go lifestyles, staying connected while mobile is not just common, it's expected.
Our tablets, smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices are always with us and always on. We are using them for business and personal matters alike, for email, conferencing, scheduling, calling and texting.
But with increased use comes higher flows of information, and with higher flows of information comes increased security issues. Because the data we store, receive and send on our mobile devices is often sensitive in nature, ensuring its security is a critical step that many people don't place enough importance on.
Luckily for us mobile users, there are many mobile security options that can help manage risk and mitigate problems like hacking, information leaks and theft. Various software, mobile applications and even physical apparatuses are readily available for the security-conscious mobile user.
The following are some products – many of which are free or relatively inexpensive – that can help you ensure your information is properly taken care of in an increasingly mobile environment.
1. Find My iPhone
Find My iPhone is free for anyone with an iPhone 4, iPad, or 4th generation iPod touch (iOS 4.2 or later required). Users can sign in with their Apple ID on their device and activate the program. It can also be activated on other iOS 4.2 (or later) devices including iPhone 3G, 3GS, or iPod touch (2nd generation or later). Find My iPhone is also included with a MobileMe subscription.
Find my iPhone is a very useful tool, particularly for those who are notorious for misplacing their phone frequently. Find my iPhone is exactly what it sounds like: a service that allows you to track the physical location of your device.
With Find my iPhone, one is able to see the location of their device on a map, display a message (ie. Please return my phone), or set a passcode lock from a mobile location, effectively denying access to your information in the case that the device is stolen.
A step-by-step guide to setting up Find my iPhone is available here: http://www.apple.com/iphone/find-my-iphone-setup/
2. BlackBerry Protect
Despite RIM's recent turmoil, it seems to have done a good job developing security solutions for its line of BlackBerry smartphones.
BlackBerry Protect is a free mobile application that can be downloaded from BlackBerry App World. The purpose of the app is to help users find misplaced or stolen BlackBerry devices and keep the information on them secure. A really useful feature of the app for small businesses is the ability to simultaneously protect multiple devices.
Like Find my iPhone, Blackberry Protect allows a user to locate their device on a map, lock the device from a mobile location, or send a message to the phone in the case that somebody finds it. It also allows a user to make the device ring at full volume to determine if the phone is nearby.
Another feature that is particularly useful is the wipe function, which can be used if the owner of the phone thinks finding the device is highly unlikely. Users can delete all the information off of their phone and microSD card from the BlackBerry Protect website to make sure no one can access their data.
Finally, the app lets users automatically back up their text messages, calendar, contacts and bookmarks wirelessly so that information won't be lost if the device is. Information backups can be scheduled as much or little as the user wants, with options for daily, weekly or monthly backups.
BlackBerry Protect can be downloaded here: http://us.blackberry.com/apps-software/protect/
3. WaveSecure (for Android smartphones)
WaveSecure is potentially the best solution for dealing with a stolen or misplaced Android phone. The award-winning application has received some pretty rave reviews and offers a variety of options for people who find themselves separated from their Android devices.
WaveSecure enables users to lock their device, wipe information, back up or restore data, and locate the device on a map. It also allows users to track SIM cards that have been inserted and track phone calls that have been made.
People can try the app for free by downloading a 7-day trial and purchase the app for around $20. The trial download is available here: https://www.wavesecure.com/products/android.aspx
4. Find My Phone (for Windows smartphones)
Find My Phone is a free service that lets users ring, lock, erase or locate their phone on a map from any internet-connected PC.
Like the applications for other platforms, Find My Phone also allows users to send a message to their device in the case that some honest individual finds it and wants to return it.
For more information on Find My Phone or to start using it for your device, visit http://www.microsoft.com/windowsphone/en-us/howto/wp7/start/find-a-lost-phone.aspx
5. Lookout (for mobile phones excluding iPhones)
Like the applications mentioned above, Lookout allows users to locate their misplaced phone, activate an alarm, remotely lock the device or wipe the data off the device.
However, this security solution also offers very effective protection against viruses, spyware, malware and hackers. It has been critically lauded and has received numerous awards, including a "Top 100 Tech Product for 2010" listing by PC World.
Apart from protecting against spyware, malware and applications that threaten privacy, Lookout lets users initiate real-time or scheduled security and privacy scans of their devices, much in the same way you would run system scans on your desktop computer.
Lookout offers two different security packages, the free standard version of Lookout and Lookout Premium, which provides more comprehensive protection for $2.99 per month. Both versions can be downloaded here: https://www.mylookout.com/download
Note: Lookout is available for Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices but is not compatible with iPhones.
6. Prey (smartphones, laptops, tablets)
Quite simply, Prey is an open-source software that allows you to keep track of your mobile devices at all times.
Though it allows users to locate any mobile devices that are missing, it is particularly useful for laptops. Apart from geographically locating their laptop, users can activate their webcam remotely to see if someone is using their computer and can even prompt the webcam to take pictures of that person. It worked for this individual who had his Macbook Pro stolen from his home (http://mashable.com/2011/08/17/laptop-thief-facebook/)
Prey offers a variety of different security packages. The free version can cover up to three devices and allows for ten status reports per device. Prey also offers five different Prey Pro accounts, ranging from $5 per month to $399 per month, depending on the extent of protection you want and number of devices you want protected.
More information on what Prey offers and download links are available at the Prey website: http://preyproject.com/
7. Griffin Security TechSafe Cable Locking System
This product is included simply because it stands out from the pool of other cable locking options.
If there is an object around that your laptop can be locked too, this product works much the same way as other cable locks. It does, however, use a patented steel blade that secures the laptop at the hinge rather than at the side of the computer, making it unobtrusive and leaving ports and connectors unblocked.
What really makes this product stand out is the Locking Security Clamp, which can be purchased separately from the Cable Security System. If there is no object available to secure your device, the clamp will latch onto objects up to 1.8 inches thick and create an anchor off which to lock your laptop.
At $29.99 for the Cable Security System and $19.99 for the Locking Security Clamp, this product is a little bit pricier than similar products. However, it may be something to consider for those who frequently use their laptops in public places.
These and other Griffin products can be purchased at the Griffin Technology website: http://www.griffintechnology.com/
Regardless of what product you choose, it is wise to password-protect your phone as well.