Lose Your iPhone…

…and lose your data, along with access to your financials. For instance,

thieves who stole [one man’s] iPhone 14 Pro at a bar in Chicago wanted to drain cash from his bank account and prevent him from remotely tracking down the stolen phone. They used his passcode to change [his] Apple ID password. They also enabled a hard-to-find Apple security setting known as the “recovery key.” In doing so, they placed an impenetrable lock on his account.

The thieves got his passcode by shoulder-surfing and watching him tap in his passcode before they stole his phone. And Apple can’t help him: without the recovery key, there’s nothing they can do. In addition to the money stolen, the man has lost the only copies of eight years of photos of his young daughters, which he was storing exclusively on his cell phone.

And this example:

After [a man’s] iPhone 13 Pro was stolen from a Boston bar in August, [he] said he spent hours on the phone with Apple customer support trying to regain access to over a decade of data.

Again, Apple was helpless to help without that now thief-altered recovery key.

The recovery key business is specific to Apple’s iPhones, and it’s irrelevant to my questions here. My questions apply to Android phones and other kinds of cell phones just as much.

My first question is this: when the cell phone owner was in any sort of public place—bar, office, park, etc, what was that cell phone doing anywhere but in the owner’s hot little hand or in an interior pocket? Leaving the cell phone out on a counter or a bar or a park bench, even if the owner is right there, is the same as taping a “Free for the Taking” sign on the phone.

My second question is this: convenience comes with a price, and these theft victims provide examples of the price to be paid for that convenience: the loss of those precious personal items, the loss of years of personally important data, or the loss of company or other business data and correspondence (whether text or email), the loss of the moneys in the various financial accounts to which the owner has given cell phone access, and on and on. Why are these data kept on cell phones at all? Why are they not, at the least, backed up on a separate device—a laptop, for instance, or the company’s desktop back at the office or in the home office?

There’s no excuse for the theft, but there’s no excuse, either, for the personal laziness that magnifies the outcome of the theft.

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