Personal Security

Personal Security

Don’t worry, I will soon explain the adorable baby! This first hack deals with your cell-phone. This little device has become a staple in almost everyone’s pocket. Whether you’re the CEO of a gargantuan corporation, or the inchoate and gibbering hipster, odds are you have some kind of mobile device.
I could spend hours sharing ideas, hacks, tools, software, themes, add-ons, and applications I’ve installed on my devices throughout the years. Some of them a little bit more questionable than others. I like bite-sized chunks of information. You can chew, swallow or spit them out a lot easier that way. So we’ll start and stop at the lock-screen* of your phone…for now. I’m assuming you’re clever enough, and already have some kind of passcode, pattern, or other simple security measure active on your phone. The following is a combination of ideas that turns this screen into a prevention and redemption master tool…these thoughts came to me after years of getting things stolen, making mistakes, and an over-active (slightly paranoid) imagination. Please keep in mind, at the time of writing**, I just purchased Apple’s iPhone 5s, which comes with the biometric (fingerprint) scanner, however you can apply almost all of these ideas to any device. I will list exactly what I have enabled on my device, feel free to pick and choose, copy and steal, or ignore all of them.

Let’s play a game of “Pretends & Knows”

Pretend someone JUST stole your phone. (Know that studies have shown most people notice their phones missing\stolen within 3-5 minutes).

Pretend the thief has 3-5 minutes to do whatever it is he\she plans on doing. This may mean running away, hiding the phone and carrying on with their business, throwing it at a cat, whatever. (Know that thanks to your ever trusting and wonderfully misinformed human instinct, you will most likely ask to borrow someone’s phone to try calling yours. Nobody stole your phone, OBVIOUSLY, these bad things NEVER happen to you. Right?)

Pretend you try to call it, but the thief has had at least 2 minutes and 55 seconds more time than necessary to turn off your phone, and so surprise, surprise, you are met with the eerie sound, of your own voice-mail greeting. However, the version of you that recorded the voice-mail greeting was in a great mood. After all, you just got a new phone. Now, you can’t stomach the sound of yourself so happy and carefree, because it just reinforces the idea that someone has STOLEN your phone. (Know that statistically, your device is most likely going to end up in pieces, and sold piece by piece. Or if you are MIRACLE-inclined, traced, likely by some over-ambitious and bored policeman, to the Middle East, or Southeast Asia where smartphone prices are up to ten times higher than in western markets. Or, remember that inchoate gibbering hipster I mentioned earlier…? YEA! Imagine that…he doesn’t have a job, are you kidding me? He spends all his time writing short stories, or blogging about mind games and life hacks…where do you think he got that phone from?) Do not fear, for I am here, and this is EXACTLY what I did with my iPhone 5s, and specifically its lockscreen. The first two give the potential “thief” a chance to be the good Samaritan. The rest assume the worst.

  1. Downloaded a picture of a baby, set it as the wallpaper for my lockscreen. A baby’s photo in your wallet increases the chances of having it returned to you quite drastically. (Wiseman, 2014. <I love that this study is a thing>). I figured it must have similar effects on a cell-phone. [I don’t have one of these baby things, but luckily billions of other people do, and most of their proud parents plaster the internet with a palpable prominence of pictures you can use without too much plodding.]
  2. Jailbroke* it. (There are tons of tutorials on the internet on how to do this. This step isn’t necessary, but it sure opens up a LOT of possibilities. Cydia is the jailbroken version of the appstore. A tweak is the equivalent of an ‘app’. Everything below uses tweaks, it would make TOO much sense if Apple had apps available to let you do this stuff within their “permitted OS”.
  3. Added text at the bottom of screen “If found please call\text:  (XXX) xxx-xxxx”.Imagine someone does happen to innocently stumble across your phone, say you left it somewhere, a park perhaps, but before they found it, the battery died. If they charge it, and your device has a lock screen, how will they ever know how to get it back to you? They could go back to the park everyday, asking strangers if they lost a phone, until eventually they ran into you. But let’s be real, if the first person is a good Samaritan, the odds of everyone AFTER that being a good Samaritan are slim to none. So put a little bit of text that has a friends phone number, or even your email address. [I used a tweak you can find on Cydia for free called customLS it allows you to alter the useless and often ignored “SLIDE TO UNLOCK” text to whatever you want. You can see what my text now reads in the screen shot.
  4. Made it impossible (while at lockscreen) to access Control Centre settingsthat would turn off the phone, disable data, enable airplane mode, and other features a thief might thrive on. This is possible with a free Cydia tweak called CCControls.
  5. Made it impossible to power-off the iphone from the lockscreen. Cydia offers a free tweak called iCaughtU. You can easily set this tweak to snap a picture of someone trying to unlock your phone unsuccessfully too many times. You can also have this picture emailed to you. Further, you can choose to show a custom alert after too many failed attempts. (Mine reads: “RCMP’s ETA: 13 minutes”) and most importantly, disable power down when device is locked. Sure the criminal could still reboot your device, but a) this is hard to do covertly (eliminating the possibility that they are turning off your phone with one hand in their pocket, while casually smiling and chatting with you… ) and b) it doesn’t accomplish much..
  6. Make sure you have “Find My Iphone” installed, and set-up.This final step goes a little beyond the lockscreen, but I think it’s still part of the lockscreen to some extent. This app is apple’s free tracking software in order to help users find their iphone in case of loss or theft. It’s not perfect. But it’s something.( I think the android equivalent is called Android Device Manager.) I also bought an app called: “Device Locator” from the app-store. It allows me access on the app’s website, where I can see my phone’s most up-to date location, send a message to the phone, and even set-off an alarm on the phone.

Obviously none of the latter mentioned tricks are going to guarantee the safe return of your digital bestie. However, combine them all, throw in a general amount of common sense, and your chances of hanging onto all those sexts, questionable pictures, and embarrassing websites are definitely much higher than they are with a 4 digit passcode.

*Jailbreaking: The name given to the process used to modify the operating system (OS) on an iPhone, iPad, or iPodTouch. If you’d like to learn more, or jailbreak your device, I suggest you do your own research, and if you decide this is the path for you, look up: “Evasi0n7”.
**This post was taken from an earlier blog I had back in 2014, however most of the information above is still relevant and useful.