A Tale of a Lost Device

Lost cellphone

A couple of weeks ago,  I left my Kindle e-reader in my airplane seat. I know, I should have listened to the flight attendant’s advice to check the seat around me and so on, but I guess I was too tired to hear her.

Aside from the “oh crap, those aren’t cheap” thoughts, there were the “what about my email, documents and so forth” fears. Even with a six-digit PIN on the device, I was worried that someone could access my personal content.

I realized that I left my Kindle on the airplane when I got to my hotel that night. First thing in the morning I contacted the airport. They had me fill out a form on line so they could look for the missing Kindle. Unfortunately, the airline outsources that function to a third party, and that company doesn’t serve the airport where my plane landed. To make a long story short, after multiple calls by my wife to airport offices she contacted an office to which my Kindle had been returned. We were both elated!

While I was waiting for the airline to find my Kindle, I called Amazon and had it “deregistered”. Their website said, that would prevent someone else from accessing my Amazon account. As I found out later it was far more beneficial: it turned off all my apps and removed all my books. Restoring those was somewhat time-consuming, but I’m glad my content was disabled. They also recommended that I change my email password. While that required changing it on multiple devices – in addition to the server – it was time to do that, anyway.

I still have some more work to do in order to get my Kindle to be a usable tablet again. Mostly it requires downloading some documents and configuring some apps. I got off pretty easy (except for some significant stress…).

Here are some tips for before and after you lose a device:

  1. Put a passcode on your device. I have one on my phone and my Kindle.
  2. Know your device’s serial number. It aids in recovery and in the case of the Kindle, in disabling the device.
  3. Bookmark or otherwise save the information about what to do when a device is lost or stolen. None of us is immune.
  4. If you lose your device, carry out the process you identified in the previous step. If it’s stolen or lost in a place where it is unlikely to be recovered, call the police and file a report. It may help if the device is recovered or if you need to make an insurance claim.
  5. Don’t panic. I was pretty stressed because I hadn’t done the planning in steps 2 and 3. I should have. I tell people to plan when I teach Learning Tree’s System and Network Security Introduction, I just didn’t.

Lost devices can cost a company a lot of money. I’ve seen estimates around $50,000. It’s not just replacement cost, of course. There’s the cost of lost data and the cost of rebuilding the contents of the lost device at least. There may be costs associated with the possible disclosure of the information on the device (if there was any that wasn’t encrypted), along with other hidden costs.

I was fortunate. My wife was a big help in getting me my Kindle back. I did have a long PIN. I got my Kindle back and that was a true blessing. Have you lost a device? Was it recovered? Tell us how you fared in the comments below.


To your safe computing,
John McDermott

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