This Article was first published in the DAWN Magazine on 20th July 2014

If you were to ask people what were their top two worries when they lost a mobile phone, most would say the loss of their contacts and the cost of replacing the set.

Probe a little more and you’ll hear them say they had some pictures that they’d not downloaded. Dig deeper and they’ll recall that it had some important emails or some other important files.

There are over a 135 million mobile phone connections in Pakistan. People change cell phones on a daily basis for varied reasons.

Those who’ve lost cell phones to criminals believe that keeping a cheap second phone to hand over to the mugger or to use in an emergency are the only precautions they can take.

The data on your mobile set can be misused if it falls in the hands of criminals; secure it for your safety and peace of mind

What many fail to consider is that while their data may only be valuable to them it is exactly what the criminal can exploit.

A scenario that’s repeated all too often, yet goes unmentioned because of embarrassment, is what happens when a mobile user gives their phone for repairs or sells it in the market without clearing the memory card. Opportunists blackmail the owners of such handsets into paying a sum of money to get back their personal pictures or to stop them from posting on the internet. The blackmail doesn’t necessarily stop after paying and your worst nightmares could yet arrive.

So what does one do in such a scenario? The simple answer would be to report it to the authorities. The pragmatic response would be that it depends on the circumstances. Whatever you choose to do make sure you never end up putting yourself in such a situation in the future.

To help avoid such scenarios here are some things you must do:

First step to safe mobile use is to secure your SIM

Purchase a mobile SIM from authorised retailers, preferably a mobile service outlet or their franchise

To register the SIM your original CNIC and biometric data is required for both new and replacement connections

Note: Once the SIM is registered against your CNIC an automated text message bearing the number and CNIC will be sent to your alternate number to confirm registration. This new feature ensures you are aware of any SIM registered in your name.

Only five connections are permitted per CNIC across all mobile operators. No new connection will be issued if you already have five connections.

Confirm how many mobile connections are registered against your CNIC by sending a text message with you CNIC number (no spaces) to 668 from any mobile connection. The automated reply will state the number of connections per mobile operator.

What to do if the number is fewer or greater than the actual number of connections in your use?

Inform the concerned mobile service provider in writing (forms available with the provider) of the numbers you actually use.

The mobile service provider will then either block the additional numbers or register it per process in your name after establishing the number is in your use.

Note: Mobile service providers will not inform the user of the mobile number that was wrongly registered against your CNIC.

Regularly perform the above check to ensure your mobile SIMs are correctly registered.

Once you’ve procured a handset (used or new) here’s what you need to do:

Note down the IMEI number at a safe place. You can look for the IMEI number in the following places:

Written on the handset. Remove the battery to see if it is printed on the manufactures sticker

Printed on the cell phone packing. The sticker that has the mobile model make, etc.

If it is not in the above mentioned places then:

Enter *#06# on your handset.
There are several services you can subscribe to for a fee:Using the phone regularly ensures that you do the following:

Call blocker — blocks obnoxious or unwanted calls by calling the short code 420. (Call blocker doesn’t work if you have International Roaming on your connection)

Address book back up — save your numbers on the mobile service provider’s server to be downloaded at anytime

Storing and backing up the phone data:

Do the following:

Save your data on a memory card instead of the phone memory (remove it when giving for repairs or selling the handset)

Back up on a cloud computing system if available

Take back up on your computer on a regular basis (weekly on average, daily if excessive changes made on phone)

Avoid saving pictures of family, workplace, home on the handset.

Do not save important documents.

If using email don’t forget to delete the attachment from the device download folder when read. (Attachments when opened on cell phones download to the device.)

Secure the phone from unauthorised access and use by:

Locking the phone at all times when not in use

Enabling autowipe in case of multiple attempts with wrong passcode

Installing remote wipe option aps

Never giving the phone to strangers to use

Never sharing the passcode with other

Installing a tracking app to remotely trace the phone (may be helpful in tracing missing persons or perpetrators)

Enabling SIM change alert. This automated alert sends an email to a predefined email address that the authorised SIM has been removed

Always logging out of banking and shopping sites.

Set a temporary passcode if the phone has to be given for repairs or to someone else to use for an extended period. People often use the same passcode for other things such as an ATM Pin or another gadget. If you cannot change the passcode then ensure you alter similar passcodes on other devices.

In case of phone and SIM loss:

Inform the concerned mobile operator to block the SIM Smart phone users ensure you change passwords for all email and aps accounts used on the phone

Inform PTA about handset losses with the IMEI. Either on their Toll Free Helpline 0800-25625 or Email:

The next time you use your phone do yourself and others a favour: think about mobile safety beyond just snatching. Remember, don’t put yourself at risk by using a mobile while driving.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, July 20th, 2014

One thought on “Protect your mobile phone from misuse”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *