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What to Do If Your Devices Are Stolen or Compromised

Every year, millions of people suffer from some form of theft or loss. Historically, victims of theft only had to worry about the loss of value that the item(s) in question represented, but today’s world is far more complex. With virtually everybody possessing at least one mobile device or computer, the potential for loss is much greater than the value of the device.

Direct theft of one or more of your devices is a serious concern, but just as concerning is if these devices are compromised (even when the devices remain in your possession). The potential for loss in both of these situations can be astronomical and affect your life for years to come.

To minimize the potential for loss, pain, and frustration, let’s examine what you absolutely need to do in the event that one or more of your devices are stolen or otherwise compromised

  1. Shutdown and Notify

If your device(s) have either been stolen or obviously hacked into by somebody, then the first course of action is to restrict access wherever possible. For many mobile devices, apps that allow remote deactivation if it is connected via Wi-Fi or cellular connection (some devices include software automatically) can easily be installed and used. For any desktop or laptop, shutting down the device until it can be properly reformatted or wiped is crucial in preventing additional loss.

Likewise, notifying your service provider (in the case of mobile devices with service plans) of a theft is essential. This can inhibit the ability for the device to be used in your name and will prevent any excess charges or purchases from being made.

2. Hire a Professional

Just as important as stopping the damage is figuring out who was involved and what information they may have that is personal or sensitive. This is why – particularly in instances where multiple devices have been stolen or compromised – hiring a professional to conduct digital forensics investigations is a good idea.

A qualified professional may be able to use remaining devices and accounts (in the event where devices were stolen) or the devices that were compromised to determine where the attacks originated from, where the devices are currently, and what information may have been extracted in the process. This can maximize the chances of recovering the devices and pre-empting any damage that might be caused via identity theft.

3. Contact Law Enforcement

Even if you hire somebody to conduct digital forensics, the findings may not be very useful without the assistance of law enforcement. Given that most electronic and mobile devices cost at a minimum several hundred dollars, the justification for filing a police report is strong. Likewise, identity theft is a crime as well, so reporting any instances of information being stolen is necessary as well.

However, without professional investigation that can be presented to law enforcement, little may be done proactively. Filing a police report can at minimum result in stolen devices being returned if they are confiscated, but with digital forensics data, device and identity thieves alike may be more likely to be apprehended.

4. Secure Yourself from Future Consequences

Ensuring that this occurrence doesn’t happen again is crucial. There are two sets of steps you should pursue in the event of device theft or compromise: safeguarding against consequences as a result of the current loss and preventing any further losses from occurring.

Signing up for identity theft protection can help alert you quickly to any unauthorized use of information or financial data, and may even provide protection against the consequences. Additionally, taking steps to ensure devices are not stolen or compromised in the future (including the use of two-factor authentication, anti-virus software and strong passwords, along with never leaving mobile devices unattended) can protect you in the future.

While it can be traumatizing and even costly, it’s important not to panic if one or more devices have been stolen or compromised. By following the four tips given here, you’ll minimize both the chances of the event causing any additional damage and the likelihood of it happening again in the future.

About Violet Little

I'm very curious when it comes to technology. I enjoy tinkering with entertainment and communication gadgets.