Using Mobile Device Tracking Programs Like Find My iPad

How built-in apps, Find My iPad and Find My iPhone help users: Internet Scambusters #455

Find My iPad is one of a new generation of programs that can
now help people track down their mobile devices when they’re
lost or stolen.

Yet, remarkably, many users fail to protect their smartphones
and tablets by setting up these programs or using PIN numbers
to secure the data on them.

In this issue, we explain how these programs work, where to
find them and what you need to know about choosing the right
PIN code.

Before we get started, we suggest you visit last week’s most
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Time to get going…

Using Mobile Device Tracking Programs Like Find My iPad

One of the greatest mobile computing security innovations of
the past few years has been the introduction of tracking
programs like Find My iPad.

It’s one of several measures that producers of mobile devices
have introduced to help victims of theft — or simply those
who’ve lost their devices — to find and recover them, or to
switch on remote phone locking.

As they so often do, computer and communications leader Apple
Inc and developers who write programs for them have set the
pace with this type of security.

You may have seen an incident reported in the media a few
months back when a theft victim used a concealed application
— appropriately called “Hidden” — to activate the camera on
board his Apple Mac Book laptop, which duly recorded and
transmitted images of the alleged thief using the device.

The victim then set up a website called ThisGuyHasMyMacBook
showing the images, which were also passed to the local police
department. The Mac Book was subsequently recovered and
returned to its owner.

The Find My iPad application doesn’t even need to activate a
camera to show the location of the best-selling tablet device.
It communicates with you via the Internet to show its precise
location, on a map on your computer screen.

It also enables you to make it play a sound (say, if you lost
it around the house), send a message (for instance, offering a
reward to the finder) or remotely lock or wipe all data from
the device.

There are similar applications for other Apple mobile devices
— Find My iPhone and Find My iPod Touch.

Despite this clever innovation, many users fail to set up the
Find My iPad or one of the other services on their device, yet
it’s simplicity itself to do.

With most recent versions of the Apple iOS mobile operating
system, these apps are built-in, but if they’re not on your
device you can also download them.

You’ll find details about Find My iPad on the Apple site.

Instructions for the others are also available on the Apple
website, while the latest version of the Find My iPhone app is also available
from the iTunes store.

Apps that are similar in operation to Find My iPad are
becoming available on other mobile devices.

For example, Verizon uses an app that it calls a “mobile
recovery application” for Android-based and Blackberry phones
as part of an insurance package. Learn more in Verizon’s article: About Mobile Recovery.

For other devices, check with your service provider or
manufacturer — or do an online search — to see what’s

Android users can also purchase a recovery app (for example,
Find My Phone, for $0.99) on the Android market, which offers
some of the elements of Find My iPad.

However, we haven’t tested them and can’t vouch for their

There’s one other important requirement, however: If your
device is not locked when it’s stolen or lost, a finder or
thief could disable the Find My iPad or other app setting
before you discover it’s missing, by simply switching it off.

Then they have access not only to your device but also the
potentially valuable information you have stored on it.

Which brings us to our next point — the use of PIN codes to
lock your device.

Most mobile devices come with password protection, usually a
four digit PIN (Personal Identification Number).

You select a number that has to be keyed in to unlock the
device. The lock can usually be manually set, set to activate
whenever you turn off the device, or set to activate after a
particular period of inactivity.

In some cases, a user — a thief in this case — can be
allowed only so many attempts at unlocking before all data is
cleared or the device is rendered unusable.

(Again, in all of these cases, please check your manual or
with the manufacturer or service provider on how the lock on
your particular device works.)

Obviously, if you don’t set up your lock in an appropriate way
— and half of users don’t — security apps like Find My iPad
are potentially ineffective if a thief disables it before you
can make contact with it.

Furthermore, this type of security is becoming increasingly
common on individual mobile apps like the “cloud” service

So, as with passwords in general, you need to select a secure
yet memorable PIN to prevent a thief from discovering it in
the number of guesses allowed.

For instance, consecutive numbers, especially 1234, or four
identical digits like 4444, are the most common and usually
the first tried. According to one piece of research, 15% of
all PIN codes use one of these approaches.

Others use a number related to their address, birthday or
phone number — all easy to guess if the thief happens to know
you. And, of course, if you use the same number for your ATM
cards and the thief has those too, you’re really in trouble.

So when it comes to protecting your mobile device, apps and
other items with a PIN code, behave as you would with a
regular password: Have a different one for each important item
and develop a system for creating and recalling them.

For example, you might start by giving a single digit number
for each of your devices. You could even write this down
somewhere. Then add a number to it.

So, for instance, if your iPad was your mobile device number 3
and you always add 2 to the number (which, of course, you
don’t write down), then your first digit is a 5, but that’s
not recorded anywhere.

Then choose three digits that have some significance to you
and again, add or subtract 2 from each. Since nobody knows
about the 2, they would be unable to guess your number within
a limited number of tries, except by chance.

That’s just one idea. With a little thought, anyone can come
up with a numbering system that they don’t have to write down
and thus increase the chances that their stolen mobile device
will remain locked.

Hand-in-hand, having a good lock code and using an application
like Find My iPad will significantly increase both the
security of your data and the chances of getting your precious
device back where it belongs.

That’s a wrap for this issue. Wishing you a great week!