September 2013: Hopping horror! Your smartphone is gone! Not just misplaced, but seriously gone. Or stolen. Now what? It had all your contacts, emails, photos, texts –possibly your entire identity. And maybe sensitive work information that could land you in a boatload of trouble.
You need to get to a computer and wipe your phone clean now. Use one of these tools to do it. (Note: please read this BEFORE your phone disappears.)
First things first: back up your phone
Before you learn how to wipe your phone from any remote location, make sure to back up the data regularly. That way you won’t be all wishy-washy about whether or not you should wipe it — if you’re fully backed up, it’s a non-issue. Wipe! You can restore the data later with confidence. See instructions for backing up your Android, iPhone, Windows Phone and BlackBerry.
Know how to use your remote wipe app
iPhone: Apple’s free Find My iPhone lets you erase your device remotely through iCloud. It works for both iPhones and iPads, and it’s free. Just make sure it’s turned on in your iPhone in Settings > iCloud.
Android: Good choices include Where’s My Droid and Lookout. Google recently rolled out Android Device Manager that lets you reset to factory settings remotely — you can sign up for the service through your Google Account. All are free.
Windows phone: Use the free Find My Phone function for Windows 7 and Windows 8. Scroll to the bottom to find out how “To erase your phone.”
BlackBerry: Use BlackBerry Protect. If you have a BlackBerry Z10, check this article to see if you’re running software that has a vulnerability associated with remote wiping.
What if it’s a work phone?
Do you use a smartphone from your employer? Or is your personal phone being managed as part of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy at work? Then you may need to use a totally different approach. Your iPhone, Android or BlackBerry may perform ActiveSync with a Microsoft Exchange 2010 server, which remotely wipes the phone to the factory defaults. Or if your company uses a service like Airwatch, there will be a different set of steps. Check with your IT department immediately if your phone goes missing.
And for the optimist in you, make sure to check out these tips on What To Do If You Lose Your Smartphone for ways to find that precious phone again.
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