Tech News

Published: Tuesday July 9, 2013 MYT 6:00:00 AM
Updated: Tuesday July 9, 2013 MYT 4:31:46 PM

D on Droid: Track a lost phone

USEFUL: Cerberus provides users the ability to remotely connect to the device that the app is installed in via its website.

USEFUL: Cerberus provides users the ability to remotely connect to the device that the app is installed in via its website.

Losing a gadget is never a pleasant experience, so here’s what you can try to recover it.

 

I used to enjoy going for jogs around my neighbourhood, but times have changed for the worse. 

Robberies and snatch thefts are reported every single day without fail, and among the valuables most targeted by robbers are undoubtedly handheld gadgets such as smartphones and tablets.  

Protecting your valuables 

In order to safeguard your Android devices against theft, the Google Play Store has a few apps that will attempt to recover the device or at least mitigate the loss. 

The app that seems to be the most promising is the Cerberus Anti Theft (bit.ly/HRB96i) app by Lsdroid. 

It comes with a free one week trial, after which it will cost £2.99 (RM15) for a lifetime license. The license can be used on up to five devices concurrently, being tied to the user’s Cerberus account. 

For starters, Cerberus provides users the ability to remotely connect to the device that the app is installed in via the Cerberus website. 

Among the features that can be activated remotely is the ability to view location history, SMS history, record audio, wipe out all data, as well as capturing images using either the back or front facing camera. 

Another of the app’s features that I find amusing is its ability to start buzzing an alarm, complete with a menacing custom message if you choose to do so. 

It can also be set to make the front facing camera capture a picture whenever the lock screen password is incorrectly attempted after a preset number of tries. 

Cerberus’ differentiating factor from other location tracking apps that I’ve tried is the SIM checker feature, which makes the phone secretly SMS you and other selected numbers whenever an unauthorised SIM card is inserted into the phone. This is very useful, and has indeed helped an acquaintance of mine in recovering his phone after he misplaced it. 

The app can still work even without an Internet connection thanks to the app’s ability to be remotely controlled via SMS. The beauty of it is that even if the perpetrator has switched the SIM card, you will be informed of the number assigned to that new SIM card thanks to the above-mentioned SIM checker feature. 

If your Android device is rooted, Cerberus will be almost impossible to uninstall. The app will be able to survive factory resets, and can only be removed if another ROM is flashed. However, it does seem unlikely for petty thieves to be tech-savvy enough to know how to do that. 

If you already have Cerberus activated in your phone, you should get the people around you to download Client Cerberus (bit.ly/11EylBZ). 

It is an app that has a command centre to easily send SMS commands to devices which have Cerberus installed. 

All that needs to be done is to select the phone number from the contacts, enter the log in password and select commands from a drop-down list. 

Messages are sent via text message from the device which the app is installed in, so be wary of the standard text messaging rates which are applicable. 

Another alternative is the popular Lookout Security & Antivirus (bit.ly/HjQS1m) app by Lookout Mobile Security. More commonly known as an antivirus software, it also comes with a “Find my phone” feature. 

Users who have installed the app and are registered for the services can log on with any web browser to initiate a list of commands, similar to Cerberus. 

This includes location tracking via Google Maps, activating a loud alarm even if the phone is set to silent, and checking the device’s last known location before it went off. 

It also has the ability to capture pictures and then send them to your e-mail whenever anyone attempts to unlock your devices lock screen wrongly. 

If you are using the premium version, you can also remotely lock your phone, or wipe your phone’s data straight from the Lookout website at Lookout.com. 

Last resort 

For those of you who don’t have any phone-locating software installed, all hope is not lost if your Android goes missing as there is the Plan B (bit.ly/HMar06) app. 

Another app by Lookout, Plan B is claimed to be your last resort to find your missing phone. 

Unfortunately, the app only works on Android phones that are still running on versions 2.0 to 2.3. 

For the uninitiated, apps can be installed to your device remotely as long as you are signed in to a browser with the same Gmail account used for your Android device. 

To install Plan B remotely, a quick Google search will lead you to the app’s page on the web browser version of the Play Store. 

Once installed, the app will automatically send the phone’s location to your Gmail address. This will go on for the next 10 minutes and an e-mail will be sent each time the phone is detected in a different place. 

To initiate the tracking again after the initial 10 minutes, just use another phone to SMS the word “locate” to your lost phone and another round of e-mail messages with the location will be sent. 

Obviously, the app is more likely to be of any help if you have misplaced your phone rather than when your phone is stolen, as the robbers will not leave it on for long. Your phone must also be connected to the Internet for the app to be remotely installed. 

As a disclaimer, the above apps are not a guaranteed way to help you recover your devices. Admittedly, you will need a lot of luck for the all the prerequisites of the apps to be present. 

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to ensure that you take proper care of your belongings and be vigilant at all times. 

(Donovan is a full-time auditor and big-time gadget lover who discovered the wonders of the Android world back in October 2010.)

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