Today smartphones are often used to save all the data you need in the digital world.
Ring binders, box files, and slips of paper are out. Your device then might be more valuable than your wallet containing cash and credit cards.
If you save sensitive data on your iPhone it’s a MUST to secure and backup them.
For backing up your device regularly use iCloud or iTunes.
For preventing unauthorized access by third parties follow the instructions described in this article.
What can happen if your device gets stolen?
Bad guys may access
- data enclosed in documents
- E-Mails and SMSs
- banking accounts
- a low cost password keeper like Safety Notes
and more up to the amount of information stored on your device.
You can be lucky if a less sophisticated thieve simply takes your device to make some free calls before you can report and your carrier blocks the SIM card. Then he sells your device and the new proud owner begins setting up the device as a new iPhone with a new Apple ID.
But there are also very bad guys behaving like terrorists and trying to destroy everything they are able to. A victim could suffer humiliation, identity theft, and lifetime suspension from services and social networks.
Loosing a device with sensitive data may compromise your identity in the digital world followed by severe problems with law.
In Germany for example you have to explain yourself if you did not follow well-known security advices and you are automatically partially at fault when it comes to court proceedings.
Also keep in mind that
increased security goes along with decreased usability
So it’s recommended to firstly set the highest level of security and then, as a well-considered decision, decrease it step by step.
Murphy’s law ‘Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong’ is still valid.
With all this in mind, learn what you should do when the black day comes and what you can do prior to your device being lost or stolen. Here is a mind map with all essentials.
Please tap on these magnified parts of the map to see the details.
Feel free to download this map from my Box account.
The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.
Secure use of the browser …
Many accounts are accessed by using the installed browser on your device.
Say NO if your browser asks you to save credentials for an account on your device.
In case of an unlocked device thefts have full access to all web-based services for which you saved the credentials to access them more more easily but with high risk.
If you want to delete already existing credentials see my article
Managing website data
It’s recommended to use a high-end password keeper like 1Password (by AgileBits Inc.) and access sensitive web-based data only via the integrated browser. So your credentials remain in a highly secured part of your device’s memory.
2-Step Verification …
Your Apple ID is the key to a lot of things you do with Apple, so it’s important that only you have the ability to access your account details, update your password, or make other changes to your account. Two-step verification is a feature you can use to keep your Apple ID account as secure as possible.
Two-step verification is an optional security feature for your Apple ID.
It requires you to verify your identity using one of your registered devices before you can:
- Sign in to My Apple ID to manage your account.
- Make an iTunes, App Store, or iBookstore purchase from a new device.
- Get Apple ID-related support from Apple.
Turning on two-step verification reduces the possibility of someone accessing or making unauthorized changes to your account information at My Apple ID or making purchases using your account.
Detailed information for 2-Step Verification on
IMEI, ICCID, Serial Number …
You should know the IMEI, the ICCID and the Serial Number when reporting a stolen or lost device.
IMEI or International Mobile Station Equipment Identity is a unique number. It’s used by a GSM network to identify a devices and therefore can be used for stopping a stolen phone from accessing that network. If an IMEI is set on a blacklist gets useless on the network of your carrier and sometimes other networks too, whether or not the phone’s SIM is changed.
ICCID or Integrated Circuit Card Identifier, which identifies each SIM globally and unique
Your back-up inside iTunes of your iOS device will show both of your IMEI and Serial Number. Inside iTunes go to Edit – Preferences and under Devices, hover your mouse over the last backup and both numbers will show up, this works even though there is no iOS device connected to iTunes present.
You can also visit your Apple Support Profile to find a list of Serial Numbers for devices you purchased or registered with your Apple ID.
The IMEI will neither be shown here nor on your carriers contract or invoices. To retrive the IMEI of an iOS device, if you still have it, go to Settings – General – About where the Serial Number, the IMEI, and the ICCID is shown.
From my point of view it’s a lack in the security concept to easily access these unique numbers which could be used to identify the owner if it would only be shown in a secured environment.
Keep all these numbers at a secure place and ensure that you have access to them and all the relevant emergency numbers even if you are on travel.
Find my iPhone …
Apple’s free app Find My Phone is the only way to loacate any lost or stolen iPhone or iPad. However, this requires that Find My Phone be setup and activated BEFORE your phone was lost or stolen. If your phone has been restored or is not connected to the internet, then there is no way to locate it.
To install Find My iPhone go to the App Store.
The app is a universal app that means you can install it on all of your iOS devices and you should do so.
To activate Find My iPhone go to Settings – iCloud and turn the switch Find My iPhone to ON.
For using features of Find My iPhone you need a computer with internet connection and have to login on https://www.icloud.com/ using your Apple ID.
Access to your device via Find my iPhone is also available from another iOS device. Just open the app, tap on Sign Out (from the owners account), tap on Sign In and enter your Apple ID and password.
You can then use the app’s features Play Sound, Lost Mode, and Erase Device.
With Play Sound you can force the device to play a sound at full volume for two minutes regardless of your volume settings even if the device is locked.
If you are favored by fortune you here the sound coming from you bathroom. Maybe your device just wanted to get rid of all the bullshit which came with ad mails.
With Lost Mode you can enter a phone number where you can be reached. It will be shown on the device you are searching for. If you just lost your device you may be lucky and someone calls you back.
It’s highly recommended to alway Sign Out from Find My iPhone after usage. All features are still available but third parties will have no access. The only way to stop this service is to disable Find My iPhone in Settings – iCloud – Find My iPhone.
Apple cannot help you here and does not maintain a database of lost or stolen Apple products with which it would be possible to block or track devices.
Report IMEI, Serial Number, Phone Number, and ICCID to
- the police
- your carrier
- your insurance company, if you have one
- the Apple support
and immediately change the Password of your Apple ID and your banking accounts.
Changing your other passwords might be the next worst case scenario.
Maybe you use your Google mail address to sign in to many accounts.
Changing the password causes some days or weeks to reenable access to all of your accounts.
I myself did it once and I tell you, it’s near to a disaster.
So use complex passwords and protect them with a #1 password keeper like 1Password for iOS.
Then lock your SIM Card via your carrier’s hotline AFTER trying to delete the device with the app Find my iPhone or the corresponding functionality on Apple’s iCloud website. By locking the SIM Card phone calls and cellular internet connections are no longer possible.
Only if you are sure you just misplaced the device use the ‘Play Sound’ or ‘Lost Mode’ feature. If you are not sure a theft would see that you started your search and if he is a professional he would cut the internet connection and with this stops all your remaining options to keep the damage as low as possible.
Replaced SIM card …
If the bad guy replaces your SIM Card it doesn’t affect any services connected to your Apple ID. That means:
- 1 iCloud backups are still present (and block space)
- 2 Syncing Reminders, Contacts, Calendars, iWork documents, and other data where syncing is supported and turned on across all of your devices with the same Apple ID still works
- 3 Purchasing from Apple’s stores is still possible.
Keep in mind that blocking a SIM card just affects services provided by your carrier.
Here are some screenshots of Find My iPhone where my primarily used SIM card from the German provider Telekom was replaced by my second SIM card from DTAC, Thailand. As long as the iPhone is not connected to the internet it’s not locatable. It’s locatable again if an internet connection (in this case I connected it via a public WiFi) is established. If the option ‘Notify Me When Found’ is activated you will get a popup message on your other device (in this case my iPad) as well as an E-Mail which contains the successful location on a map. The E-Mail is sent to your E-Mail account you entered when applying an Apple ID.
If this account is also configured on the lost device even your lost device get’s this E-Mail, but the bad guy wouldn’t see the incoming mail if you deactivated the display of new mails in your device’s notification center.
Apple’s service Find My iPhone is not affected by any type of SIM cards but only by your Apple ID and the activation of the related service in Settings.
Online status of your stolen/lost device …
If you want to find out whether your stolen/lost device is connected to the internet use Find My iPhone on https://www.icloud.com/ or on another iOS device, your new or your friends one.
If you try to locate the device you and there it’s not connected to the internet the app shows you the ‘Old location’ and after some seconds displays the option ‘Notify Me When Found’. Activate the checkbox and you will get a message (as a popup, containing: Find My iPhone Alert/Device has been found) when the location process succeeds. Some minutes later you will get an additional E-Mail showing the location on a map.
So you are informed that the bad guy went online.
Then try to erase the device.
Further questions …
There are some pending questions e.g.
- What should you do if someone hacked your Apple ID?
- What happens with your purchases, registered products, Apple Care Protection Plan, and your data on iCloud if you apply for a new Apple ID?
My researches weren’t really successful when it came to qualify the answers as just an opinion or an actually validated procedure of the author.
In case of doubt don’t read the uncountable articles you will find in the internet. Contact the Apple support and prior to this read these articles:
Here are some questions where I myself validated the answers:
How can I delete the iCloud backup of a stolen device?
If you are using the same Apple ID on your new device go to Settings – iCloud – Storage + Backup – Manage Storage – Your Device and tap on ‘Delete Backup’.
How can I change the password of my Apple ID?
You can change your password by going to Settings – iTunes + App Stores and tap on Apple ID. Follow the instructions there.
Alternatively you can do so via any browser by visiting
For more information about the Apple ID see my article
The most important advice is to follow all the instructions that hamper an unlocking of your device. Once someone gets access to the device’s functionalities and apps you will have a really dark day.
Access to everything you had access to without using a password can be accessed by others. So best practice is to use a complex Unlock Code instead of a simple 4-Digit-Code (see the link below to Daniel Amitay’s website).
Keep highly sensitive information off your device and use the more old-fashioned methods as reminders.
Your carrier can help you blocking your SIM card.
Apple could help you by blocking all services related to your Apple ID.
But there is need for significant improvement when it comes to identification of customers. There is still no secure verification process which ensures that you are the person you say you are. Apple’s support is thus limited to advise you to change your password.
So I only can recommend to look at all options you have for securing your Apple ID.
Useful links …
- Apple: Managing your Apple ID
- Apple: 2-Step Verification
- Apple: Contacting Apple for help with Apple ID account security
- Apple: Security and Your Apple ID
- Apple: Business IT Center-Security
- Apple: Find My iPhone on iCloud
- Apple: Remove your device from Find My iPhone
- iNotes4You: The Apple ID
- iNotes4You: Managing website data
- Daniel Amitay: Common iPhone Passcodes
Thanks Daniel, a very interesting contribution.
Related links …
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Thanks for dropping by.