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Protecting Back to School Tech

Now that the new school year is upon us, many parents will be purchasing back to school essentials such as binders, backpacks, pens, pencils, and yes, even new cellphones, tablets, and laptops. Losing a pen or pencil to forgetfulness or theft is not a big deal, but we can’t say the same thing when it comes to mobile digital devices given their cost. It may also be a concern because of the private and personal information that these devices often contain. This blog post is about providing families with steps that they can take to help locate a device that is lost or stolen and reduce the risk of damage.

Step #1: Ensure the device is password protected

The first and most important thing to do, protect your device with a password so that if it is lost or stolen, a person will not be able to use it. We have set up our phones and laptops so that a password is required when it is first powered up, or after 15 minutes of inactivity. We prefer using a digital alphanumeric password (letter, numbers, and symbols) that are at least 6 digits in length - Chromebooks require 8 digits. If your operating system allows a biometric password option (fingerprint/facial recognition) like our iPhones, we suggest considering using this option as well.

iPhone, iPad

iPhone, iPad Touch ID

Android devices

iMac laptop

Windows laptop


Step #2: Record the phone’s IMEI number:

The “International Mobile Station Equipment Identification” number (IMEI) is a unique number used to identify a specific device that utilizes a cellular network. It’s like a digital fingerprint that is specific to the device. Not only are IMEI numbers given to cellphones, they can also be located on 3G/4G tablets and laptops with PCMCIA wireless internet cards. If you have a dual-SIM phone, you’ll see two IMEI numbers, one for each SIM slot. If the lost or stolen mobile device has an IMEI number, reporting the IMEI to your mobile provider (FIDO, Bell, Rogers) allows them to nationally blacklist the phone. Even if someone replaces the phone’s SIM card, it will not operate if entered into this blacklist database. When buying a used cellphone, we would also recommend checking the IMEI of the phone first to ensure that you are not buying a stolen device, this can be done for free online (see link below)

How to find IMEI

To check an IMEI number to ensure phone has not been stolen

#3: Set up the find my iPhone, iPad, iMac, Android option

Both Apple and Android offer the ability to track, lock, and wipe lost or stolen devices if needed. Not only did Darren arrest several people in his policing career using this valuable option, but he was also able to recover several lost devices, including his own.

Setting up “Find My iPhone, iPod and iMac”:

How to use “Find My iPhone, iPod and iMac”:

Setting up “Find My Device” on Android phones:

Another great option for tracking a lost or stolen cellphone or laptop, no matter what the operating system, is to download a third-party option. One of the best third-party options on the market is called the “Prey App” Not only does this product offer the same capabilities as the Find My iPhone and Find My Device Apps, but it will also take a picture of the suspect if they attempt to use the device. The Prey App will also capture a WiFi’s IP address that they may be using, which can be very useful to the police in locating both your device and the suspect. A free version of this open-source software is available, with paid upgrades that offer more options like a remote wiping capability.

#4: Protect Your Investment:

Cellphones, tablets, and laptops get dropped, especially when placed in the hands of youth and teens travelling to and from school. These devices are not cheap, so protecting these digital electronics with some form of protective case is a cheap way to help reduce the risks of damage. Some carriers such as Bell, Rogers, and Telus also offer phone insurance if the phone is lost or damaged for between $10-20 dollars per month which, depending upon the phone, may be worth the cost. Here’s a great article on these insurance plans here in Canada:

So, there you have it, four easy steps to recover and protect your child’s digital device from loss, theft, or damage as they begin their digital journey of the new school year!

Darren Laur

The White Hatter Team