Saturday, December 24, 2016

Risk of a lost mobile device

Losing a mobile device will one day be your reality. Sorry, but it is a fact.

I just dealt with this personally. Wasn't my phone, but I needed to address the lost phone.

Fortunately, the fact that it was missing was noticed very quickly.

It's an Android phone, so I assisted the person to log into the google account controlling the phone.

We looked at the location history, which is enabled on this particular phone. You can see if your location history is present by logging into your google account here:

I want to briefly address the creeptastic aspect of this information. I've personally used this location history for an extended period of time on my phones. I can see where my phones are to a high degree of accuracy. My every movement is traced by these phones. There's risk to this as well. While that's not what this blog post is about, think about it. As a future experiment, I'm going to completely disconnect for a period of time. A digital detox of sorts. But for now, I get the benefit and privacy invasion of this configuration.

I suspect most people have enabled Google (Android) location history without realizing the abundance of information present.

The location history for this phone was enabled, the location was quickly identified, and the phone was recovered.

Fortunate, in this case.

Even if the location history isn't enabled, all is not lost. There's also the Android device manager:

Log in, lock the phone, ring the device ringer, and optionally display a contact telephone number or message. I hope you read this before you lose your phone and are able to make an informed decision around location history use.

If you are considering this for a small business management of devices, you can restrict who can see your location to a small number of other accounts. This is like the functionality of commercial MDMs, available for free within Android's built in capability.