Technical security: how to erase your phone or computer in case of loss or theft

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Selling your old technology can put money in your pocket, but remember that your devices store sensitive data that you don’t want a stranger to access.

Your smart speaker, for example, knows your location and can even store your voice recordings locally. Tap or click here for steps to erase and deregister your Amazon Echo before selling it.

Now think about what your phone knows. No wonder you get that awful sinking feeling when you can’t find it. Here’s how to find a lost phone, even when the battery is dead.

But what if your phone, tablet or laptop is lost for good? Don’t let anything stored there fall into the wrong hands. Here’s how to erase all that personal information from anywhere.

Remember that you have to configure it in advance

Imagine you are traveling and your phone or computer cannot be found. If your password is easy to guess — or worse, you’ve never set one — you’re potentially transferring everything from your banking ID to your social media accounts to who knows who.

Being able to erase your devices remotely is incredibly useful. But you need to configure the capacity in advance. If you wait until you need this feature, it’s too late. Take the time now to set it up by following the steps below.

Wipe your Android

If you lose your Android phone, you can find, lock or wipe it remotely. You must have Find My Device turned on before using these features. Here’s how.

  • Open the Settings application.
  • Faucet Security > Find my device. If you don’t see Security, tap Security and location or Google > Security.
  • Make sure Find My Device is turned on on.

Follow these steps to wipe your phone remotely

  • Go to android.com/find and sign in to your Google account. If you have more than one phone, click the lost phone at the top of the screen. If your lost phone has more than one user profile, sign in with a Google account on the primary profile.
  • The lost phone will receive a notification and you will see its approximate location on a map. If you are unable to locate your phone, you will see its last known location.
  • Choose Enable lock and wipe if necessary.
  • Choose Erase device for Permanently delete all data from your device. Note: After performing this step, Find My Device will not work on this phone.
Erase your personal data from your smartphone before selling or disposing of it.

Erase your personal data from your smartphone before selling or disposing of it.
(Stock)

Erase data from your iPhone, Mac or iPad

Apple’s Find My app lets you remotely erase an iPhone, iPad or Mac remotely. As with Android, make sure you’ve enabled Find My beforehand.

Enable Find My for iPhone and iPad:

  • Open the Settings application. Press your namethen touch find my.
  • Faucet find my [device]then turn on find my [device].
  • To see your device even when it’s offline, enable Find my network.
  • To have your device’s location sent to Apple when the battery is low, turn on Send last location.

To enable Find My for your Mac:

  • Click it apple menu > System Preferences > Security and privacy. Click it Privacy tongue. If the bottom left padlock is locked, click on it and enter your password.
  • Choose Rental servicesthen select the Enable location services check box. Make sure the box next to find my is selected.
  • Click on Factthen return to the main System Preferences window.
  • Click on Apple ID > iCloud. Check the box next to Find My Mac.
  • To make sure you can find your Mac if it’s lost or stolen, click Choice. look at this Find My Mac is enabled and Search My network is activated.
  • Click on Fact.
In this photo illustration, an Apple iPad displays its home screen.  (Photo illustration by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

In this photo illustration, an Apple iPad displays its home screen. (Photo illustration by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
(2014 Getty Images)

Now let’s say your iPhone, iPad or Mac goes missing. Here’s how to erase all data stored remotely.

  • Go to icloud.com and login to your account.
  • Click on find my iphoneso All Devices. (Note: If you don’t see All Devices, you have already selected a device. Click the current device name in the center of the toolbar to access the device list, then select a new device. )
  • Select the device you want to erase and click To erase [device].
  • Do one of the following, depending on what you want to erase: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple Watch: Enter your Apple ID password. If you’re not using a trusted browser, answer your security questions or enter the verification code sent to your other devices. Mac: Enter your Apple ID password. If you’re not using a trusted browser, answer your security questions or enter the verification code sent to your other devices. Enter a password to lock the Mac. You will need to use the password to unlock it.
  • iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Apple Watch: Enter your Apple ID password. If you’re not using a trusted browser, answer your security questions or enter the verification code sent to your other devices.
  • Mac: Enter your Apple ID password. If you’re not using a trusted browser, answer your security questions or enter the verification code sent to your other devices. Enter a password to lock the Mac. You will need to use the password to unlock it.
  • If the device is lost and you are prompted for a phone number or message, indicate that the device is lost or how to contact you if you wish. The number and message will appear on the device’s lock screen.
  • If your device is online, the remote wipe begins after following the on-screen instructions. If your device is offline, the remote wipe starts the next time it’s online.

MORE TECHNOLOGICAL INTELLIGENCE: Every iPhone and Android User Should Know These Awesome Commands

Always erase your personal data from laptops and other electronic devices before disposing of it.

Always erase your personal data from laptops and other electronic devices before disposing of it.
(Stock)

the Windows

You can also remotely wipe your Windows laptop. Make sure Find My Device is enabled before this happens:

  • Sign in with your Microsoft account.
  • In Windows 10, go to Settings > Update and security > Find my device and make sure the function is on.
  • In Windows 11, go to Settings > Privacy and Security > Find my device and make sure the function is on.

Next, you need to enroll your computer with Microsoft Intune, a cloud-based service that lets you manage devices and apps remotely. Install the app from Microsoft Store or Log in to the Company Portal website.

Now, if your laptop goes missing, you can wipe it remotely.

  • Go to portal.azure.com/#home and log in.
  • Choose All the services and filter Granted.
  • Choose Microsoft Intune and select Devices.
  • Select the device you want to wipe remotely.
  • Click on Wipe and then Yes.
  • The next time your laptop is turned on, all your data will be erased within 15 minutes.

Delete yourself from the internet

While you’re on a roll, take another smart privacy step. Here is my final guide to erasing yourself from the internet. It’s nearly impossible to remove yourself from the web entirely, but you can erase a little if you know where to start.

PODCAST CHOICE: Traffic Trick, YouTube Shortcuts, Golden Privacy Tip – Komando.com

Want to get off the internet? Here’s how. I’ll also tell you how to predict traffic conditions months in advance. You’ll learn about some YouTube keyboard shortcuts you’ll always use and Netflix changes that may come later this year. Also, a piece of history died in a ransomware attack. Here’s what you need to know.

Check out my “Kim Komando Explains” podcast on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando”.

What questions do you have about the digital lifestyle? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando show on your phone, tablet, TV or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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Discover all the latest technologies on The Kim Komando show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For his daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit his website at Komando.com.

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