Shortly after I got my first smart phone, an iPhone, it fell out of my pocket and landed on the grass near a pet store (I was walking Curtis, my dog.) When I got home I couldn’t find my phone anywhere. I tried all the usual techniques, calling the number, saying “come phone, come here, good boy,” alas, nothing worked. Since I hadn’t had the phone long I hadn’t had a chance to install any apps to help me find it. I drove back to the pet store, walked around where I had walked Curtis and amazingly, I found my phone! I was extremely lucky. Most of the time, we aren’t that lucky when we lose our phones (or have them stolen.)
A Smart Phone is a Computer
Smart phones are capable of storing a huge amount of data and you probably have a lot of important and confidential information on your phone. When I lost my phone it didn’t matter too much in terms of confidentiality. I hadn’t had a chance to put any personal information on it, and I had locked it using the 4 digit code the iPhone allows. Also, at that time I didn’t have clients, so I didn’t have anyone else’s information on my phone.
Now, on my Evo, I have all sorts of information about myself. And now that I have clients I have client data on my phone. In my (new) business discretion is hugely important. Right on Freedman Consulting’s letterhead it reads, “Practical Solutions and Discrete Project Management.” None of my clients would appreciate it if I expose our work together to the public at large or to potential competition. This fact has made me something of a maniac about making sure my phone is well protected and secure. I also never let my phone out of my site.
If you are an attorney, you probably have similar information on your phone; private client information, emails containing important data, in short all sorts of information you wouldn’t want to lose and certainly wouldn’t want accessible to a third party.
How to Secure your Phone
- The first step to securing your phone is to keep it in your sight. It is easy enough to walk away and forget about your phone, but it is also very easy for a thief to steal your phone in a matter of seconds. Try to never walk away from your phone.
- The second step to securing your phone is to turn on the locking system. These systems aren’t great on either the iPhone (a 4 digit number) or the Android (normally a pattern on the phone) but they will help if someone tries to quickly look at your phone or provide minimal protection if the phone is stolen..
- The third step is to make sure you have the ability to remotely wipe your phone. This way if the phone is stolen you can remove all of the data very quickly.
How to Wipe your Phone from a Distance
Before you wipe your phone see if you can find it. If you can’t, wipe it. It is always best to have a backup of your phone in case you do have to wipe it. However, in the end if you don’t have a backup and cannot find your phone, you are better off wiping it and losing the data then allowing the data to end up in the wrong hands.
If you have an iPhone purchase the Mobile Me service from Apple. The service costs $99 per year and is worth the price for any professional. In addition to enabling you to wipe your phone, Mobile Me can help you find your phone and if you can’t find it, will help you wipe it. It also enables over air syncing of a lot of information from your phone to your computer and vice versa.
If you have an Android phone, I recommend a program called LookOut. LookOut has a free and pay version. If you use the free version you are missing a lot of the features. Pay for the full version. The application will help you find your phone, watches out for viruses or odd behavior on the phone, let’s you backup your phone and provides remote wipe, along with other services. The application has a top rating from cNet. LookOut is $29.99 per year.
I was once asked what to do if the phone doesn’t have a signal. Obviously if the phone is off or in a garage or elevator where it does not have a signal the wipe won’t work. But as soon as someone turns the phone back on or leaves the area in which there is no service, the phone can be wiped.
Fortunately most people who steal a phone aren’t really looking for the data, they are looking for a phone. But if someone finds valuable data on a phone they might choose to share it. And while I am sure none of you have anything embarrassing on your phone, many individuals who had, for example, nude pictures on their phones have found such pictures posted and shared on the Web. Also, there are those who would steal a phone specifically for the data it might contain, industrial espionage is not unheard of. Those are the people you really need to worry about.
As attorneys we have an ethical obligation to keep client data secure. I strongly believe that turning on the locking capability and making sure you can remote wipe your phone are the minimal steps to which we are obligated in the case of smart phones and confidentiality of client information.