In the age of analog cellular phone technology, cloning and identity theft were rampant. Because signals were easily intercepted, an unscrupulous individual could copy the mobile phone’s identity and could make calls charged to the owner of the account. With today’s popular GSM and UMTS standards, though, identity theft is more difficult. The technology is digital, and more difficult to clone.
However, with most modern cell phones having PDA functionalities, you will most likely have personal information stored on your mobile phone. Therefore, if it falls into the wrong hands, the information can be easily used. These might include contact lists, emails, notes, SMS messages, bank account numbers, and even password information, in case you save these in your cell phone notepad.
Protecting your mobile phone from identity theft involves securing your phone physically, and ensuring the software is secure, in case the phone gets lost or stolen.
Keep your phone physically safe. Your first line of defense is to keep your phone physically safe. Don’t leave it on tables or counters in restaurants and other public places. At the office, don’t leave your phone on your desk unattended. If you are charging your phone, lock it inside your desk drawer. When traveling to and from work, keep your phone securely hidden in your briefcase or in an inner pocket. Thieves can be particularly creative and skilled at pickpocketing phones in your shirt pocket or hip pocket.
Use PINs and passwords. Your SIM card comes with a built-in security measure, particularly the SIM. This number is required whenever you power up the phone. Thieves or people who chance by your lost phone won’t be able to use your phone to make calls or send messages if it is turned off and if the SIM card is PIN-protected.
Another layer of protection is the security code or password that your phone will have. This protects it against insertion of another SIM card. With the use of a PIN and security code, your phone can still get lost and stolen, and the thieves can re-program or reset your phone to factory settings. Still, they will be unable to retrieve information from it.
Keep the SIM card holder somewhere safe. The SIM card holder usually comes with a PUK or PIN unblocking key, which can be used to reset the SIM’s PIN in case you forget it. Keep it safe, in case you do forget your PIN. Don’t keep it in the same place as your phone, since this can be use to open your SIM card even if the person doesn’t know your PIN.
Encrypt your memory card. Most modern phones support a memory card slot, usually a MicroSD. If you lose your phone, and the MicroSD card has information, other people can easily access this, even if they don’t know your PIN and security code. They simply need to load the MicroSD on another phone or a card reader. Consider encrypting your MicroSD card using built-in options found on your phone.
Use remote-wiping software. Modern mobile phones like the Apple iPhone support a remote lock and wipe-out feature, found in MobileMe. This can be used to remotely lock your phone if you suspect loss or theft. If the phone is within range, it can even send you its GPS location. If recovery is impossible, then MobileMe can wipe out the data in the phone, so that other people cannot access it.
Report loss as soon as possible. In case you lose your mobile phone, report it immediately to the service provider. They will disable your SIM so that the people who have found your phone will be unable to make calls or send messages pretending to be you. If you plan to lock down or wipe out your phone’s contents, though, you might have to do that first, because those functionalities work over the network.