Securing Your Mobile Device

Filed in How-to, Interesting Technologies by on July 19, 2011

During this busy travel season it is important to take some time and ensure that your mobile device is secure in case of loss or theft.  I know, no one wants to consider these possibilities, however unfortunate things can happen and having security measures in place on your device can help to make the experience a little less overwhelming.

Passcode or Pattern Lock

Passcodes (iOS) and Pattern Locks (Android) are the first level of protection on your device.  Once you set a passcode or pattern lock your device will request that the appropriate code is entered each time is the device is restarted, woken from sleep, or the screen is unlocked.

If you are an iOS user, more general information on passcodes can be found here: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4113.  Please note, you do have the option to have your device automatically erase all data should the passcode be entered wrong ten times.  This option may be recommended if you carry sensitive data on your device.

If you are an Android user, general information on setting Pattern Locks and Passcodes can be found at the end of this article.  Pattern Locks and Passcodes on Android automatically give you 5 attempts before prompting you to reset your security using your GMail account information.

A member of the campus iPad Users Group asked “what happens if you forgot your passcode?” This is an excellent question! According to Apple (http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1212) if you forget your Passcode you will need to restore your iPad using the computer it was last synced to (this will restore from your last back up or sync so you want to be sure to back up your device regularly!).  If you are an Android user you do have some options to reset your Pattern Lock using your Gmail Account, however if you forget your PIN on an Android device this will require an external reset of the device which wipes the device’s contents.

Warnings about Passcodes and Pattern Locks

While forgetting your Passcode or Pattern Lock may seem like a scary idea, this is not a good reason to use an insecure passcode!!  According to some data gathered by Daniel Amitay, maker of the Big Brother Camera Security (Free) app http://amitay.us/blog/files/most_common_iphone_passcodes.php, the top ten iPhone passcodes (in order) are: 1234, 0000, 2580, 1111, 5555, 5683, 0852, 2222, 1212, and 1998.  The thing you will note about most of these passcode combinations are that they are either sequential or they create a line on your keypad (with the exception of 1998 which is hypothesized to be a year of graduation).  Please avoid this type of passcode! Think of your favorite mathematical constant, use the letters on your phone keypad to transliterate a word to numbers (e.g. the word duck using my phone would be 3825), or use the last four of an obscure phone number (e.g. your grandmother’s phone number from when you were a kid).  If you are interested in a more detailed analysis of password selection you may find Troy Hunt’s analysis on how passwords are typically chosen to be of interest: http://www.troyhunt.com/2011/07/science-of-password-selection.html.

http://exchange.wpi.edu Remote Wipe for all OSs

Did you know you can also send a remote wipe signal to a lost device from within Exchange Outlook Web Access (OWA)?  To do so, log into http://exchange.wpi.edu/owa.  Click on the Options link in the top right hand corner of the screen

In the options panel, click Phone > Mobile Phones > then select the device you would like to wipe and click Wipe Device.

Remote Desktop

Did you know that there are several remote desktop applications available for your iPad or Android?  These applications allow you to remotely access your desktop computer and interact with files there.  This can be useful for accessing programs which require a full desktop to run or for accessing sensitive documents that you do not wish to place on a mobile device.  Example programs include iTap RDP (Remote Desktop for Windows) http://itap-mobile.com/ and Splashtop Remote Desktop http://www.splashtop.com/remote.

General Android instructions for setting a Pattern Lock or Passcode (YMMV)

To set a Pattern lock:

  1. Press the Menu key from the Home Screen
  2. Touch Settings > Location & Security > Set up screen lock  > Pattern Lock
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions and draw your lock pattern
  4. Set the amount of time you would like your phone to wait before requiring you to enter your Pattern Lock

To set a Passcode lock:

  1. Press the Menu key from the Home Screen.
  2. Touch Settings > Location & Security > Set up screen lock  > Passcode lock
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to set your Passcode

NOTE:  Pattern Locks and Passcodes on Android automatically give you 20 attempts before prompting you to reset your security using your GMail account information. After 5 unsuccessful attempts, you have to wait 30 seconds before trying again.

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  1. AndyT says:

    Thank you for the tips – just got my Android device locked with the pattern lock feature. Very cool!

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