Stolen smartphones and computers, how to save what you can

Some simple features can make life difficult for thieves and make smartphones, tablets and computers unusable. Activating them is easy

A moment of distraction is all it takes to find yourself without a smartphone or computer. Thieves are very good at exploiting indecision and stealing electronic devices. In most cases, these devices are very high priced, purchased after months and months of work.

Technology, however, provides tools that at best will allow you to find your device, at worst will make it unusable in the hands of thieves. You won't get your money back, but at least the thief won't be able to resell it. Besides, you'll have the security that the thief won't steal your personal data and then resell it on the dark web. In the hard disk of the computer or in the memory of the smartphone there are our images, but above all the credentials of access to e-mail, social networks and bank account.

To prevent a probable theft of data, you can use tricks that will make the smartphone or computer unusable in the hands of the thief. In the case of cell phones, you can also search for the device using applications such as Find My iPhone and Android Device Manager.

Enable FileVault or BitLocker

Very often thieves are also computer experts. For them, unlocking a password-protected computer is anything but complicated. By pressing a sequence of keys they can start the computer in emergency mode and execute commands to change the password that protects the computer. For a normal person it may seem complicated, but for a hacker it's child's play: in less than five minutes he has access to the computer and all of the person's data.

Unfortunately, you can block this operation by encrypting the documents on the hard drive. Both Macs and Windows PCs offer tools to prevent unauthorized access to the data on the boot disk.

On macOS you will have to activate FileVault, a program developed directly by Apple. Go to System Preferences and click on Security and Privacy. At this point you'll have to select the FileVault panel and then click on Enable FileVault. A new window will open and you'll have to choose the option "Create a recovery key and don't use my iCloud account". A password will appear on the screen for you to use whenever you want to access your documents. This security key cannot be changed in any way.

Windows users will also be able to encrypt their hard drives, using BitLocker. Unfortunately, the software is only available in the Pro versions of Windows. In the Control Panel, click on System and Security and then click on BitLocker Drive Encryption. Then you'll just have to click on Activate BitLocker and follow the program's instructions. At the end of the process you'll get a password that you'll use to access the documents on your PC.

By activating FileVault and BitLocker, thieves will never be able to access your computer and you'll end up with an (almost) unusable device.

Never turn off your smartphone

Smartphones are one of the easiest devices to steal. They're small in size and all it takes is the slightest carelessness to find yourself without a phone. Google and Apple, however, have developed two applications that allow you to track down your lost or stolen smartphone. We are talking about Android Device Manager and Find My iPhone. The user can remotely check the location of the phone at any second, the important thing is to have the GPS active and the smartphone turned on. And in fact one of the first moves of a thief is to turn off the phone so that it can't be tracked. But thieves are not aware that you can turn off the smartphone's power: when the attacker will go press the Off button, nothing will happen.

On the iPhone there is a setting made to activate parental control, but that turns out to be very useful in these cases as well and that does not allow you to turn off the device. Going into Settings, you'll have to click on General, then on Accessibility and finally activate Guided Access (by entering a numeric password). At this point you'll have to launch any application, press the Home button three times and tap on Details in the lower left corner. This will open a popup menu from which we'll have to activate the standby option. Once these steps are completed, it will be impossible for the thief to turn off the device, and through Find My iPhone we can geolocate the device.

On Android there is not a feature like the previous one, but you can install Smart Lockscreen Protector, an application that allows you to protect your smartphone. After downloading and installing the app, you will have to activate the Autostart feature and your device will no longer turn off. That way, if you have lost your smartphone, you can find it again using Android Device Manager.