Until recently, the phone was something you used to dial a number and make a voice call through a wire or some wireless radio waves. Since smartphones came to the market, the use of a phone has expanded very broadly, sometimes covering things we didn’t dream of back in the 90s. Depending on what kind of outlook you have on this, you are either enthused or terrified of this trend. Cell phones and computers are now becoming more integral parts of our lives as we begin to allow them to take control of things for our convenience. Is this necessarily a bad thing? It’s time we explored this!
What You Can Control
To have an idea of how scary or exciting this is, we have to know exactly what your phone can control at this moment. All smartphones are capable of controlling things through Wi-Fi, and most of them have Bluetooth. Others also have near-field communications (NFC) and an infrared (IR) “blaster,” which is a fancy marketing term for “antenna.”
What can you control with these things?
Through Wi-Fi, you can control Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as PCs (with properly installed software), smart appliances, vehicles with Wi-Fi receivers, video game consoles, etc. In most instances, you can also configure your router.
Bluetooth allows you to control all sorts of things, such as “smart” door locks, input devices, game controllers, and car locks.
Your phone’s IR Blaster can control television sets and many other remote-control-operated devices such as DLP projectors.
Why It’s a Concern
The antennas on your phone put an enormous amount of power in your hands. Perhaps the most frightening part of this is what may happen when that same phone ends up in the hands of another person, particularly one that took your phone without your consent.
You may ponder on what your antennas are doing, but have you wondered how much damage the information your phone stores can do to you? Let’s play a scenario just to see how awful the prospect of having your phone stolen could be: Your phone is the key to your house since you bought one of those smart locks. It was stolen a few hours ago and you haven’t noticed yet, but the thief noticed you have the lock-opening app and has found your address by looking through your Amazon or Facebook account.
You can see how horribly this would play out for you if it really happened. The thief can make bank by breaking into your house and leaving no sign of forced entry. Depending on what he does, it would be difficult to report a theft to authorities without anything broken.
What You Can Do About It
So, what can you do to ameliorate the situation and minimize the damage you bring unto yourself in the event of a theft? Here are a few pieces of advice:
- Don’t trust your phone with things that are highly valuable (e.g. your home, your car, etc.).
- Log out of any financial applications you use on a daily basis. Never tap “remember me” when logging into sites like PayPal.
- Don’t put your address or any other highly-sensitive information on social media accounts.
- Make sure you can wipe, lock, and/or locate your device in the event of a theft. Android has Android Device Manager, Apple iOS has iCloud Find, and Microsoft Windows Phone has Find My Phone.
Following these steps is absolutely crucial to ensuring that you never have to experience the (further) loss of property or even your life due to the theft of your phone.
While we may relish in the amazing conveniences that the latest technologies offer us, we often sacrifice our security and privacy for such things. Sometimes we must reassess how we use technology to establish an equilibrium in our lives and prioritize what matters to us the most.
If you have any further thoughts, please leave a comment below!