Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to return an iPhone to its owner with the security passcode enabled.

I was recently contacted by a friend who had found an iPhone in his front lawn. My first thoughts was - 'ahh...that sucks for whoever lost it!'.

Since this friend has no idea how to use an iPhone and I am 'the computer/phone guy' for this person, he was hoping I could help get the phone back to its owner.

The following outlines the steps I took to reunite the iPhone with its owner.

Challenge one: No power.
Solution one: Plug it in. brainer there! However, it does speak to the problems associated with propietary charging solutions. Fortunately, I have several iStuff products...

Challenge two: Passcode enabled.
Solution two: Pull the SIM out. Put it into my iPhone and import the contacts.

I would imagine most people would not have considered this as an option. The idea of a SIM card is foriegn for most people and even that you have the option of importing the contacts from the SIM card is probably just as foriegn. Ironically, my 9 year old daughter was the first to mention it. I am not sure what that means - perhaps all my geekiness is really rubbing off. However, she was very wise in stating this method of data retrieval. As a result, I was able to retrieve the phone number associated with the iPhone and obtain a list of people who know the owner of the iPhone.

From a privacy/security this is a bit of a concern because anyone who finds an iPhone can learn a lot about the owner - despite the security protocols they put in place on their phone. The user could have protected their SIM data with an additional PIN. Ironically, if they would have enabled this protection, they would not have gotten their phone back.

Challenge three: Finding the owner!
Solution three: Call people...

I started by calling the person at the top of the list. This proved to be confusing, and amusing as people who I did not know answered. I quickly discovered that the phone must belong to a teenager...

Unfortunately, none of the people I called (starting with A) knew who the phone belonged to. Then I considered the logical - Dad/Mom/Home. Of interest, all three were in the list. I started with Dad and immediately found the person who could help.

So, to recap, if you find an iPhone and want to return it to the owner, just import the SIM contacts into your own iPhone. I never considered the impact that enabling the passcode would have on my chances of getting my lost iPhone back into my hands. As a result of this experience, I will be embedding a contact number into the wallpaper in the hope that if I lose my iPhone it will be found by an honest person who will want to return it back to me!