How to Protect Your Devices if Stolen

Earlier this fall, a friend and student of mine had her Macbook and iPad stolen. When she discovered they were missing, she called me to ask if I knew of any way to find her missing devices. Unfortunately, her laptop and iPad were never recovered because they did not have the correct settings turned on to locate them in real-time. (I was able to find a location where they had been the day before through other programs, but it was too late to be of help to the police.)

This is a long article, but the beginning of a new year and possibly with new Apple devices is an excellent time to make certain that yours could be found quickly if they are ever stolen or misplaced. Read on!

iPhones and iPads have had the Find My iPhone setting for years. Find My iPhone uses the cellular network or a Wi-Fi signal to give you a general location of your iPhone/iPad on a map when you log into icloud.com from a computer. Until recently, a thief could turn off the setting to find your iPhone/iPad if your device was not passcode protected or the 4-digit passcode was discovered. (9999 is not a secure passcode!)

With the new iOS 7 operating system, Apple introduced a new feature with Find My iPhone called Activation Lock. Activation Lock is automatically turned on when you set up Find My iPhone and makes it much harder for anyone to use or sell your iPhone/iPad if it’s lost or stolen. Basically, an unwelcome user can not turn off Find My iPhone without entering your Apple ID and password. In addition, your iPhone/iPad can’t be erased or signed out of iCloud without your Apple ID and password.

Find My iPhone Settings for iPhone/iPad

These settings are for iPhones/iPads running the latest version of iOS 7.

  • Touch Settings>iCloud.
  • Find My iPhone (or iPad) should be ON (green).

Mac computers running the Lion or Maverick operating system have a similar setting called Find My Mac. If set up properly, you can track your stolen or misplaced Mac whenever it is awake and online with a Wi-Fi network. Adding additional password protection can prevent an unwelcome user from easily accessing your files or erasing your computer.

Find My Mac Settings for Mac computers

From a Mac computer running the Lion or Maverick operating system:

  • Click on the  in the top left corner.
  • Click on System Preferences.
  • Click on iCloud.
  • Find My Mac should be checked.

For added security, make sure that your user account on your Mac requires a password on start up:

  • Click on the  in the top left corner.
  • Click on System Preferences.
  • Click on Users & Groups.
  • Click on the padlock in the left corner to make changes if it’s in the locked position.
  • You should be the Current User and the Admin of your computer. If you don’t have a password, click on Reset Password to create one.
  • If you have a password but need to create a stronger one, click on Change Password.
  • Click on Login Options under the User list on the left side.
  • Automatic login should be Off. This will require your password to be entered whenever  your computer starts up.

For more info about Find My iPhone/iPad/Mac, go to http://www.apple.com/icloud/find-my-iphone.html.

Add an extra layer of protection with Prey

A well-regarded program that adds even more tracking features to iPhones/iPads/Macs, plus Droids and Windows computers, is called Prey. Prey has both a free and a paid version. With the free version, you can use Prey on up to three devices. What I like about Prey is that it appears to use a different process to find the location of your missing device and it will attempt to take photos of the unwelcome user with your device’s built-in camera!

To install Prey on your Mac or Windows computer:

  • Go to http://preyproject.com/.
  • Click on Download now.
  • Install Prey on your computer and sign up as a new user.
  • From the email Prey sends you, log into your new Prey account. Prey will open to a settings page for your computer.
  • The default settings are good, but I recommend that you set Get nearby Wifi hotspots to YES and Trace route to YES.
  • Then click on Save changes.

On each iPhone, iPad or Droid:

  • Download and install the free Prey app.
  • Once installed on your mobile device, open the app and sign in as Already a Prey user.
  • Touch Add this device.
  • Allow Prey to use your current location and send Notifications.
  • On the Prey Preferences screen, turn Camouflage mode ON and Use Location Listener ON.
  • Close the app and move it into a folder to make the app less visible to a thief. (I moved Prey into my Shopping folder on my iPhone.)

Next week, I’ll show you how to track your missing devices!

5 replies
  1. Rayanna
    Rayanna says:

    While searching for help with my photos on my iphone and how to move them to my computer on Ask.com I was directed to your site which amazed me with all the information! I do not even know which iphone I have and I have had it now for 2-3 years! It is late now, but I am very anxious to get back on here tomorrow and educate myself with all you have on your site. Thank you so very much for sharing all your knowledge for all of us out there like myself wanting and needing to learn! I greatly appreciate it, more than you realize! Thank you again, Rayanna Herrin

    Reply
    • Lynn Huffman
      Lynn Huffman says:

      Hi Rayanna, I’m so glad my articles can help you! And, if you want to find out which iPhone model you have, take the case off your phone (if you have one) and look on the back. You may need magnifying or reading glasses, but etched in tiny letters, look for the word “Model” followed by an “A” and then a number. Then go to http://support.apple.com/kb/ht3939 and scroll through the various models (clicking on the arrow) to find the match for yours.
      All the best,
      Lynn

      Reply
  2. Sue Lipton
    Sue Lipton says:

    There are many sensors available that can alert you if your phone is stolen. There are also many i-phone cases available that are enabled with these sort of sensors so you can make use to these cases to protect your phone if stolen.Thank you for this post.

    Reply
    • Lynn Huffman
      Lynn Huffman says:

      Hi Sue,

      Thank you so much for sharing! I really had never looked into iPhone cases that have those types of sensors.
      All the best,
      Lynn

      Reply
  3. Google
    Google says:

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who had been conducting a little research
    on this. And he actually ordered me dinner because I discovered it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!

    But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this subject here on your website.

    Reply

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