New Delhi: When Anil Tanwar, a Bombay-based IT analyst, discovered that he had lost his expensive Apple iPhone while travelling to his native village in Uttar Pradesh a few years back, he was distressed. When he regained his composure, he realised that he had enabled the “Find my iPhone" feature. Using the app, he and his brother managed to pinpoint the phone’s location on the map since the person who had found it had switched on the phone. After much cajoling and confrontation, Tanwar was fortunate to get his iPhone back.

Tanwar, though, is simply a case in point. Android device users can use a similar feature called “Find My Device" that needs to be activated in Settings->Security. Further, even if the thief (or person who finds the phone) does not switch on the phone for many days, users can initiate remote wipe of the smartphone. This would reset the smartphone (to its factory settings) the moment it is switched on.

In fact, some antivirus apps such as McAfee Mobile Security continue to track the device and inform the owner of the new phone number and the current global positioning system (GPS) location of the device even when a SIM card has been removed. It can also click a picture of the person trying to log in to the device after a few unsuccessful attempts and send a copy to the registered email address. Norton’s Mobile Security app even instantly locks the smartphone if the SIM card is removed.

Also read: How to keep work and personal separate on one phone

However, locating a smartphone will work only as long as the phone has a cellular network or internet connectivity. If someone picks the phone and immediately switches it off, most detection tools won’t work. This is why prevention is better than cure, especially because if users lose their smartphones today, they not only have to worry about getting the mobile number blocked but also ensure that their personal data such as photos, emails and credit card numbers will not be misused. “The loss or a theft of a smartphone can be very upsetting considering the amount of important information we store in these devices that have become a lifeline to our work, family, and social lives," says Ritesh Chopra, director, Norton business for India.

For instance, some mobile apps hold invaluable data that is often left unprotected, since some of the most commonly used apps don’t necessarily require a log-in each time they’re launched, explains Venkat Krishnapur, vice-president of engineering and managing director, McAfee India.

Users should not only secure their device with a complicated PIN or passcode, but should disable auto logins as well for high priority apps, advises Krishnapur. Users can add an extra layer of security by encrypting their sensitive data. While most new Android phones offer software-level encryption by default, some smartphones offer hardware level encryption that is harder to break into such as Samsung Knox. It allows users to keep their sensitive data in a secure conclave and then locks it with an encrypted key. The encryption keys are stored in a secure area of the chipset called Trust Zone.