How To: Use Dropbox to Find Your Stolen Android Smartphone

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If your wallet gets lost or stolen, you face the perks of cancelling your credit cards, requesting copies of your IDs, changing door locks and maybe some passwords, if you had that information stored in one of the wallet’s pockets. If your smartphone gets lost or stolen, however, you face the far more dire consequences.

What’s in your smartphone that is of value to you, except for the fact that it probably costs as much as a monthly rent in Washington D.C.? Banking apps, your home and office address, Facebook login, PokerStars login, contacts, intimate texting, email access, sensitive files in your Dropbox – the list can go on forever, and by now you must realize that, in terms of identity theft and privacy and security breach, a lost or stolen smartphone is a threat number one.

A recent research by Symantec showed that 75% of people who happen to find lost smartphones poke their noses into text messages, emails, Facebook accounts; while 45% of such accidental findings end up on the black market selling the owner’s credit card information.

In other words, having your smartphone lost or stolen from you is one of the most frustrating things that can happen theft-wise. But, unlike your wallet, your expensive iPhone or Android smartphones can be protected even if they should ever get stolen. There are a few ways to make your phone incredibly difficult to unlock, so even if the thief is in possession of the device, it won’t do him much good.

Today, we are going to take a look at one method you probably haven’t thought of – Dropbox.

Here is how to try and find your lost smartphone with the help of Dropbox

Reddit poster cwumed explains that if you install and set up Dropbox correctly on your smartphone, any shot taken by the thief will be uploaded to your Dropbox account automatically, so you will be able to see it from wherever you are. This is one way to:

  • identify the thief,
  • get physical evidence of the theft and
  • with a little bit of luck you could even decipher the location.

Needless to say that the first thing professional thieves do when they steal smartphones is deleting everything installed on them. If that is the case, consider your phone as good as lost for good.

Rooted Androids have a better chance of being recovered

However, if you have an Android smartphone, you can root it and install a hidden version of Dropbox and hide the .zip deep down in device’s system. Most thieves won’t even notice it exists while Dropbox will continue uploading images and files to your online storage.

The bootloader work-around

Alternatively, you could do this without rooting your Android smartphone, but you will need to unlock bootloader and flash Dropbox to the system level, thus granting it root access.

However, if a thief knew how to do it right, he would simply boot the smartphone to recovery mode, format the system and flash a new ROM on the device. Alternatively, the thief could hack into your Dropbox account and uninstall it from the web interface.

Of course, this Dropbox work-around is not the best way to safeguard your smartphone against hack or theft. It is more of an idea how you can try and get your device back using Dropbox, or get physical evidence of who the thief was. It can increase your chances of getting your smartphone back if the thief is actually an amateur rather than a pro hacker.

Final Thoughts

We recommend the following protection means to safeguard your device in case of loss or theft:

  1. Encrypt your device.
  2. Use Android Device Manager.
  3. If possible, do not shop via your smartphone not to have your financial information stored there.
  4. Always have a recent backup of your contacts and other important information you keep in your smartphone. That way, if you lose the device, at least you have the back up of everything it contained.

We will be posting instructions on how to unlock the bootloader on Android devices soon, so stay tuned to PocketMeta updates!