How to Wipe Your Phone Remotely

Smartphones aren't smart enough to wipe themselves clean of personal or business data when stolen or lost, but wiping a phone remotely keeps your private information out of the hands of the wrong people. So how do you wipe your phone remotely? Here are several options--services and third-party apps that can remove all the data thieves may really want, like online passwords, cached credit card numbers, banking information, and your Aunt Debbie's tabouleh recipe.

1. Buy a subscription service. Android users can subscribe to Mobile Recovery as part of the Total Equipment Coverage plan with Verizon ($4.49 per month, per phone). Download the Mobile Recovery app (text "GETMR" to 6967), and download Backup Assistant to allow you to back up all the data you may eventually wipe.

For the iPhone, you will need MobileMe, a $99 per year subscription service with a 60-day free trial. Family plans are $149. Download the free "Find My iPhone" app to use with MobileMe. MobileMe, like Android's Backup Assistant, allows you to restore data after activating a remote wipe. Users must enable Push and Find My iPhone for the account for remote wiping to take place when you need it--this is critical.

2. Download a third-party app. Don't want to spend the money on remote accesss subscription services? If you have an iPhone, MobileMe is the only choice for remote wiping, so you're out of luck.

Android users have two third-party apps to choose from: Mobile Defense (free) and WaveSecure ($19.90 per year). Both allow the same wiping capability as Mobile Recovery without the higher monthly fee. As of September 2010, Mobile Defense was suspended for new users, with a new version release pending.

3. Activate a remote wipe. For the iPhone, in MobileMe go to Account, Find My iPhone, Remote Wipe. Be sure to back up all data before proceeding.

You'll have to approve the Remote Wipe, then click Erase All Data. This restores the iPhone to factory settings, and if you find the phone later, you can use MobileMe to restore backed-up data.

For Android, if you're using Mobile Recovery, back up your data with Backup Assistant before wiping. Go into the Mobile Recovery account and select Secure Phone. To wipe the phone, select Erase Contacts and Lock Phone.

For third-party apps for Android users, a simple text message can wipe your phone using WaveSecure's service. Check the WaveSecure Website for appropriate formatting.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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