Is It OK To Not Put A Passcode On Your Mobile Devices?

My recklessness often gets turned into cautionary tales around here: I destroyed a screwdriver by trying to use it as a hammer, my hard drive died before I could back it up, and this week I left my brand new iPod Touch at a cafe. Usually, they serve as reminders of why we should be doing this or that. But the only lesson to be had this time around is that it's actually OK to not secure your gadgets with a passcode.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Earlier this week, my boyfriend and I hung out at a cafe before heading to the movies. It wasn't until we were halfway into the movie that I realised I didn't have my iPod on me — and only because my boyfriend took out his phone to turn it off after it kept vibrating with notifications. They turned out to be text messages from a friend who was trying to let us know that someone found my iPod, handed it in to the cafe staff, who then posted this message on my Facebook wall.

I went to the cafe and retrieved my iPod the next day without incident. But it got me thinking — would the outcome have been the same if I had put a passcode on my iPod? It's only because it was unlocked that the cafe staff were able to find out it was mine, promptly tell me where I had lost it and where I could pick it up.

If I had locked it, I would have had to activate Apple's Find my Device feature and assume that it was gone for good until I heard otherwise. In other words, not having a passcode resulted in me getting my iPod back more quickly and with less stress than if I had put a security passcode on it.

So even though it's probably a good idea to put a passcode on my iPod (and my Android phone), I still haven't done so and probably never will. My gadgets are full of personal and work-related information that I obviously do not want strangers accessing, but that's not enough of a motivator for me to set up an annoying passcode. I never bother logging out of applications or websites (except anything related to banking) because my devices mostly remain at home. When I do go out with them, I regularly check that they're still in my bag or coat pockets. I don't want to set up a passcode that will give me some security at the expense of total convenience.

Do you think this sort of attitude is reckless? Do you lock all your devices? What would you have done in a situation like this? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Comments

    Adroid devices let you put a lock screen message on the device. i have my mobile number, email address, name and employee number on it (i work for a big company, and yes, it is worth doing for me). I suggest finding a way to do this for anyone locking their devices.

      +1. Not locking the devices is a great idea if:
      - you've done nothing else to let a finder know who you are
      - you haven't set up remote recovery options (like find my iphone)
      - you don't mind strangers having access to every account you've left logged in on your device.

      I don't really fit into that category, but there are probably plenty of people who do.

    I think along the same lines as you do, but recently was forced to put a passcode on it because I set up a VPN connection in my android phone (and if I lose it, I remote wipe using cerberus). I just now have my partners contact number on the lock screen and a note saying if lost to call that number. Simple.

    I disagree with not locking devices because it doesn't take more than five minutes to set up a a lockscreen wallpaper with your contact information on it.

    Definitely the invincible sort of attitude. With access to facebook details, email access and other information stored on the phone, do you know how easy it is to reset password to online banking and other secure portals? My guess is that you don't want to find out. You were lucky enough to have a friendly person pick up your ipod touch but this is more the exception than the rule. Don't underestimate the power of a pin or swype lock. Even something as simple as 1111 ...damn now you know my pin!

      This is down to how much information you leave on your phone.

      I don't leave banking info on there and my emails while private, don't contain anything sensitive.

        And if you request a password retrieval, where does that get sent? to your phone or email?

          Yes, most definitely.

          But they'll also ask for an account number.

            It is very easy to obtain someone's bank account number. It is on the bottom of every check you write, if you are old fashioned. Otherwise it is included in your invoice somewhere, or at least in an accompanying email if you use internet banking.

    Am I the only person who has a sticker on the back of my device with an alternate phone number/email address to contact if the device is found? No need to mess around with calling people in the contacts list, or finding apps to show contact details on the lockscreen.

      I had stickers like that on my stationary in primary school? :p

    I used to work in a Cinema and find phones after sessions all the time. The only phones that ever got returned were the unlocked ones where we could scroll through the contacts list and call either "home" or "Mum."

    Also, I once found an ipod touch, sent a message to the owners facebook friends, and never heard anything in response.

    Last edited 22/11/12 1:27 pm

    the ios find my phone app now lets you set a lock message saying "this phone is lost" and gives them a button to call a number that you provide, that's if you don't just remote-wipe it.

    Also, iphone's with Siri will often allow you to hold the button and say "Call mum" or "call my girlfriend" (assuming they have set those relationships in their contacts) to connect a call to someone to return it, the default settings allow this even with a passcode.

      rbev makes excellent sense.

    I guess it all depends on how much you trust humanity...

    There's no way I would leave my phone without a passcode. Yeah it makes it easier to return the device if lost, but you don't know the person hasn't gone through it and taken sensitive info/files from it before giving it back to you, and that's if they even do return it. I'll set up an "If Found" lock screen wallpaper with my info, but no way would I leave it without a passcode and just hope the finder is a decent person.

      Completely forgot about Lost Mode in iOS 6 too. Go to Find My iPhone on icloud.com (or get the app on someone else's iDevice) and you can set your device in Lost Mode, which lets you put a message on the lock screen and set a number to call.

    Personally I like to know that nobody else has access to the massive amounts of personal information on my device. I can send my Lumia a message from find my windows phone, remote track it, or remote wipe it if needed.

    Locking it also stops a theif from racking up your bill which you then have to dispute, and from being able to change any settings to avoid you finding them. I know for both Windows Phone and iPhone you need to enter the passcode to unlock the device when syncing with your computer, so it makes it that little bit harder for them to wipe the device and keep as their own as they need to know how to get the device into recovery mode.

    Then there's the ability to leave my phone on a table at a BBQ without a drunk friend fraping me :p

    You can reset password for most sites just by having access to some ones email. It's also often one factor in your two factor auths for some more secure sites.

    Paranoid alternative: They stole your personal details / passwords etc and then returned your device so that you wouldn't feel the need to reset all your passwords.

    What's your address and when are you normally away from home?

    (I assume you don't lock your front door in case Fed-Ex might need to make an unexpected delivery?)

    Depends what you have on it - and if you secure apps with passcodes

    I have Dropbox and Evernote app

    I've also set it up to connect to my laptop and desktop (both setup as FTP servers)

    I haven't put any passcodes on the apps, because my phone is.

    Could be good or bad to have someone with your info.

    Many people would use that info to help return your item. On the other side of the coin, some could use that info for their own gains.

    I use a face unlock with pin backup. It works really well and takes less than a second to unlock.

    I don't use a passcode on my ipod because there really isn't much on mine lol. But if you have lots of personal information on it you should put it on.

    Last edited 22/11/12 8:49 pm

    I would rather secure my phone, most people (and not trying to discriminate) especially young people will think "Woohoo who could I sell this for $50 too", I have heard through family of friend that there is a roaring trade amongst teens for "found" phones. Hell I have been hit up to reset and unlock phones (which I didn't help with).

    I have set my phone to wipe all data when a certain amount of tries is reached just in case as well.

    I need to have a pass code on my iPhone and iPad because I use them to access work email. It's company policy. But, as has already been mentioned, it's dead easy to create a lock screen with your name and contact details on it.

    It's easy to put descriptions on Android phones with 4.0 cause you can put desc's on the lockscreen above your passcode. :D

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