How to protect your personal data if you lose your phone

Our smartphones have become extensions of ourselves. We use them to connect with family, friends, colleagues, and the world around us. They also hold a wealth of personal information that we wouldn’t want to fall into the wrong hands. That’s why it’s so important to look after our devices, take preventative measures in case they do go missing, and follow the correct steps in the event they’re actually lost or stolen.

Be proactive about your phone’s security

Preparation is critical if you want to protect the information on your phone from potential loss or theft. Being proactive about your device’s security will make it easier to recover with all your information secure and intact.

Start by enabling device recovery services like Find My iPhone or Find My Device. These will allow you to track, lock, ring, and remotely wipe your phone should it ever become lost or stolen. The next step is to back up your contacts, photos, and other important data – this will ensure you can recover them if your device goes missing.

Where you store your data is also important. For example, you shouldn’t put usernames, passwords, and other personal information in easily accessible places on your phone, like an email or basic note-taking app. Instead, use a password manager like 1Password, as this will ensure it remains protected no matter who gains access to your device.

Step one after losing your phone: Don’t panic

If you do misplace your smartphone, take a deep breath and don’t panic.

Remember: All of the data you’ve chosen to store in 1Password is encrypted. A thief would need to unlock your phone and open the 1Password app – which is protected by your account password, a pin code, or a form of biometrics – to gain access. As long as you have a strong account password, someone who has access to your device won’t be able to view your passwords, credit cards, or anything else you’ve stored in 1Password.

Step two: Lock your device, if you can

If you’ve set up Find My iPhone or Find My Device, you should declare your device “lost” and immediately try to lock it. These services will often let you add a note to the lock screen saying something like: “This phone has been lost. If found, please contact [insert phone number].”

Step three: Protect your accounts

While your 1Password data is secure and private, other apps or services may not have the same safeguards in place to protect your information.

Your 1Password data might be safe, but that doesn’t mean everything on your device is protected. What about the other apps on your phone? You likely have some that don’t require you to log in every time you launch them. Protect these accounts by remotely logging out and changing their associated passwords. This is especially important for your email and social media accounts, as well as other critical services like your bank accounts and credit cards.

Open 1Password on another device and use your vaults as a checklist to find and change any affected accounts.

Step four: Take steps to locate your phone

If you suspect your phone has been stolen, report it to the police and notify your carrier or network provider. Law enforcement can help you get it back and protect you from any potential liability by establishing that the phone is not in your possession.

If you merely left your device somewhere, like in a taxi or coffee shop, call it from another phone and retrace your steps to see if you can find it. If you’ve set them up, Find My iPhone and Find My Device can show you its current location on a map and help you track it down.

How to access your data without your phone

If you have a 1Password membership, your data is automatically backed up. Losing your device won’t affect the security of that data, provided you’ve chosen a strong account password. To access your data, install 1Password on another device and sign in to your account.

Your data is also available on other devices if you sync 1Password with iCloud, Dropbox, or the WLAN server. To see your information on any other devices you own, simply install 1Password on them and log in.

Step five: Deauthorize the lost device on 1Password

Even if you have a strong account password, it’s a good idea to deauthorize your device and regenerate your Secret Key. This will ensure that anyone who picks up your phone can’t sign in unless they know:

  • The email address tied to your 1Password membership
  • Your account password
  • Your new Secret Key

To deauthorize your device on 1Password:

  • Click your name in the top right and choose My Profile
  • Scroll down and click the gear symbol next to your lost or stolen device
  • Choose Deauthorize Device

Step six: Regenerate your Secret Key

To regenerate your Secret Key:

  • Select your name in the top right and choose My Profile
  • Select Regenerate Secret Key
  • Enter your account password, then choose Regenerate Secret Key
  • Download your new Emergency Kit and store it safely

1Password will then ask for your new Secret Key and your account password on each device you sign in to.

Try 1Password for free and keep all your online accounts secure, even in the event that you lose your phone.