Losing access to valuable files could be very crippling. Your private data in the wrong hands could be a nightmare. So, how can you prevent this as much as possible? Here are some practical ways to mitigate the impact of losing your Android smartphone.
Back Up Your Data
Losing your phone is synonymous with losing your data, but it shouldn’t be so. Proactively backing up your data is the first logical step in preparing for a potential data loss. Unfortunately, keeping a backup of all your data isn’t as simple as it seems. Most of the popular Android backup apps out there have a lot of holes.
It’s either a problem with privacy, backup frequency, the amount of data you’re able to back up, or the type of data you can back up. An ideal backup solution should be able to back up not just your media files and documents, but also your application data, settings, and anything that can help you retain your previous mobile experience.
The first backup option you should consider is Android’s in-built backup feature. Some of these options may look slightly different depending on which version of Android you’re running. To access the feature:
- Open your settings app, scroll down and tap on Google > Backup.
- Toggle-on Back up to Google Drive.
- Scroll down and tap on Google Photos and then toggle on Back up and Sync.
- Scroll down and tap on Back up device folders.
- On the next menu, toggle on all the picture folders that you need to back up.
If you’ve followed through with the steps above, you’ve likely put up a phone-wide backup in place. This should cover your settings, photos, videos, SMS, wallpapers, call logs, device preferences, and application data for selected applications.
While the coverage is quite wide, your documents, some media files, and data for some apps may be left out. To cover the lapses, Google has a unified backup solution called Google One. With the Google One app, you can manage files backed up to your Google Photos, Google Drive, and Android’s in-built backup system from a single interface.
If you use a Samsung phone, here’s a detailed guide on how to back up your data on Samsung.
Protect Your Data on Your Phone
Once your phone is no longer in your possession, your data is at risk. If you have confidential documents or media files you wouldn’t want in the public domain, it is important to ensure no one can access them if you ever lose your phone.
A popular option is using a “vault” app that can secure your sensitive files with a pin. You’ll find dozens of them on the Play Store. Unfortunately, a bulk of them only hide your files rather than actually protecting them by encryption or other means.
Fortunately, the Files by Google app is a reliable option for keeping your files safe. The application comes with a Safe Folder feature. The feature stores files in an encrypted folder which can only be accessed through the app after providing a pin. Recent Android versions come bundled with the app, but you can also find it on the Play Store if you don’t have it pre-installed.
To set up and secure your files:
- In Files by Google, select Browse.
- Go to Collections and tap on Safe Folder.
- In the Choose a Lock screen, choose PIN or Pattern and tap Next.
- On the Confirm PIN or Confirm Pattern screen, re-enter your PIN or pattern and tap Next.
- On the next screen, tap Got it.
To secure your files using the Files by Google app:
- Select any file (or files) from anywhere within the Files by Google app.
- Tap the three dots in the top right corner of the app screen.
- Tap Move to Safe Folder.
As long as whoever has your phone doesn’t have your PIN or pattern, your files can not be accessed. Realistically, it is not all your files that you’ll likely keep in the Safe Folder. This means every other file could be vulnerable.
Android’s in-built Find My Device feature promises to wipe your phone data remotely if your phone falls into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, it comes with a lot of limitations. To wipe your data, your phone must be:
- Connected to mobile data or Wi-Fi
- Be visible on Google Play
- Be signed in to your Google account
- Have Find My Device turned on
While this is fine for a phone you’ve misplaced, it’s unlikely to work for a stolen device. Anyone serious about tempering with your data will ensure these conditions aren’t met. So what’s the fix for this?
How to Self-Destruct Your Files Using MacroDroid
You can find apps that “self-destruct” your files on the Play Store. Unfortunately, a lot of them are fraught with bugs and compatibility issues because of ever-changing Android OS permissions and security restrictions.
However, if you’re up for it, you can implement an effective workaround using MacroDroid, one of the most reliable automation apps for Android.
Download: MacroDroid (Free, subscription available)
Here is a guide for building a self-destruct automation routine on your Android device using MacroDroid:
- Launch the MacroDroid app and tap Add Macro.
- On the next screen, type “Self-Destruct” in the input area labeled Enter Macro Name.
- Tap the plus icon on the panel labeled Triggers.
- Go to Application > Application Launched/Closed > Application Launched > OK > Select Application(s) > OK.
- A list of all your installed apps should come up. Select all file manager apps or any app that can open the files you want to destroy if your phone is compromised.
- Return to the Home screen and tap the plus icon on the Action panel.
- Go to Files > File Operation > Delete > OK.
- Your Android phone directory should come up, navigate to the folder that contains the files you want to be destroyed. Tap Use this Folder.
- Select the type of files you want to be deleted within the folder and tap OK.
Here’s what we’ve done so far:
- We’ve programmed a trigger (which is when a user opens any file manager app).
- We’ve set an action to take once the trigger is fired (which is deleting all the target files).
However, it wouldn’t be prudent to delete the target files any time any file manager app is opened. The trigger and the action should only be valid when the scenario fits the action of an intruder. MacroDroid gives you a lot of scope to define this “intruder profile.” You can do this within the constraints section.
To add a constraint:
- Tap the plus icon on the Constraint panel.
- Go to Location > Geofence (Location) > Outside Area.
- Tap Select Zone and then the plus icon on the bottom of the page.
- Tap the circular navigation icon in the top right corner of the screen to lock in on your current location.
- Enter a zone name (e.g Safe Zone) and then adjust the radius to around 500m.
- Tap the checkmark icon to save.
- On the next screen, tap the back button in the upper left corner of the screen and hit Save.
- On the home screen, toggle on the switch in the top right corner of the screen to activate MacroDroid.
With the MacroDroid profile you’ve created, if anybody tries to access any of your file manager apps when the device is outside the geographical area labeled as Safe Zone, all the files in your target folder are automatically deleted.
Of course, MacroDroid gives you a lot of leeway. You can choose to use a different set of constraints or triggers depending on what conditions you would want your files to self-destruct.
Take Proactive Measures to Protect Your Data
A lot of things could go wrong if you lose your data or if it falls into the wrong hands. The steps we’ve outlined above enable you to proactively set up measures to recover your data, protect your data, or if necessary, destroy your data if it gets into the wrong hands.
Whatever happens, it’s important to make sure you’ve got your data backed up, so you can always access and restore it when needed.
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