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Now you can Google your lost (Android) phone
Naked Security Naked Security

Lost your Android? Now you can Google it!

Just do a Google search on "Find My Phone," and presto! It will show up on a Google map. Then, you can get it to ring its head off.

Android Find my PhoneOh, drat. Your Android’s missing. How do you find it?

Well, you could use Android Device Manager to locate it, reset its screen lock PIN and/or erase all the data, but that’s a bit of a hunt-menu-select-select scramble unto itself.

Now, Google’s making it as simple as plugging a search term into its omnivorous search box.

In fact, Google’s new “Find My Phone” is just that: a search term that we can now plug into Google search.

All you have to do is make sure you’ve got the most recent version of the Google app installed on the device, Google said in a blog posting:

We've all been there — you’ve searched under your car seat, tossed around the sofa cushions and you still can’t find your phone. If you know where your computer is, you can now ask Google to find your Android phone from your desktop. If the pesky phone is hiding nearby, Google can ring it for you — or you can see it on the map if you, say, forgot it at the bar. Just make sure you’ve got the latest version of the Google app installed on your device!

After you plug in the “Find My Phone” search term, Google Maps comes up, and Google asks for permission to use your location data.

A drop-down menu lets you select which device you’re trying to find, then Google communicates with the phone, eventually presenting a map view of its location that the company says is accurate to 76 feet (at least, that’s the accuracy it gave me for mine):

Find my Phone - Google

Then, Google gives you the option of making the phone ring its head off, non-stop, at full volume, for 5 minutes, or until you press the power button.

It’s always a relief to find your phone’s been hiding under a cushion.

But what if your phone instead winds up in the pocket of a thief? Or what if an innocent person picks it up where you left it at the beach or the pub?

When it’s in the hands of others, a phone can be the key that unlocks your privacy, given all the personal data it contains, including contacts, naked selfies, Facebook posts, online banking, Snapchats, Amazon purchases and, well, the sky’s the limit.

To battle phone-related crime, US law enforcers and politicians have pushed for a mandatory kill switch – i.e., remote-control technology that bricks a phone after it’s stolen, thereby ruining its resale value.

Short of a kill switch, there are ways to locate, lock and/or erase a wireless gadget if it gets lost or stolen, Google Device Manager being one.

The telecom industry lobbying group CTIA has listings for security remote-command apps for Android, Blackberry, iOS (Apple), Symbian and Windows, as well as instructions on locking a phone BEFORE it’s stolen.

Apple, for its part, introduced an activation lock in its iOS 7 mobile operating system.

Apple previously had a Find My iPhone feature, but the activation lock took it a step further by not only tracking the lost phone but also enabling users to remotely wipe it.

This approach isn’t as drastic as bricking it forever and ever.

That’s a good thing, given that a locked iPhone can still display messages if the true owner lucks out and his or her device falls into the hands of a reputable person.

Like this guy, who found a lady’s phone on a beach and accidentally posted a selfie to her Facebook account with it!

(Happy ending: iPhone + owner = reunited!)

Sophos is looking out for happy endings, too: it has a free Mobile Security app for Android that offers a bunch of remote commands you can send to your phone, including Wipe, Lock, Alarm, Locate, Reset passcode, and Message to finder.

It also reports the device’s location before the battery runs out, and it provides notification if the SIM card is replaced.

Android logo, Google ( [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


“Availability & requirements
For now, you have to be in the United States with your browser language set to English.”

sad times, it doesn’t work for me


Ah, I was wondering why a recent Google app update was asking for so many new permissions. I thought Google just wanted to spy on me. They probably do, but at least there’s a legitimate reason they can point to.


You can remotely install this on your phone by just logging on to a GMail account that is associated with your phone, and going to

Now all half dozen of my Google accounts can track me and remotely wipe my phone. Oh Hell No!

So how do I remove this frigging security risk from my phone?
I haven’t figured that out yet, and Google, so far, is of no help.

How to stop my Google accounts from tracking my phone?
Settings – Personal – Accounts – Google – Location Settings. It turns all Google accounts on or off. You can’t just pick one account.

How do I stop my Google accounts from wiping my phone?
I’m not sure, but it looks like: Settings – Security – Device Administrators – Click on Android Device Manager – Deactivate.

Now Google Maps and Google My Tracks isn’t working.

HELP. I Want This Thing Off Of My Phone ! ! !


Forgive me if I’m misinterpreting what you wrote, but it sounds like you installed Android Device Manager and then realized that if one of your Google accounts was compromised, your phone could be wiped by the marauder… right?

I can’t find a method of uninstalling Device Manager, but you could of course turn off the remote lock/wipe options on the phone:

As far as your Google accounts getting compromised goes, it’s a good idea to turn on 2-step verification.

I hope that helps…?


do you need to have GPS activated on the lost phone or will Google locate it based on the phone towers?


Or the recent Wi-Fi access points it’s seen…they’re also a good source of geolocation data. (The MAC address of an access point generally tells you the vendor; if it’s not a phone, its loction is probably fixed. So, once someone who does have GPS on their phone has seen that access point, and called home with its location, the access point itself becomes a location beacon :-)


It hasn’t been able to locate my phone unless I turn on Location. Which, obviously, I can’t do if I’ve lost it. Like many people, I turn off location unless I’m using Maps for some reason…


Slightly different issue:

My Android tablet “failed” on me and I was faced with returning it to the retailer. Now since it “was not working”, whilst I could *send* a “wipe command”, it could not have acted on it (because it was not working!). So it goes back to some workshop somewhere and they get it working and they can then access everything at their leisure? Does a “wipe command” just keep trying and how does it know it has succeeded if the device whilst being wifi enabled is not 3G/4G connected?

Fortunately, the retailer managed to reset it for me with the equivalent of the PC Ctrl-alt-del which I did not know about (power button plus sound down button for 30 seconds). And don’t say RTFM there is no FM!


There is an FM…it’s just that it’s online, which is fantastic…unless your problem involves not being able to get online :-)

My advice: while the going is good, read up and try out all the bootloader, reboot, safe mode and recovery mode tricks you might need to know. Think of it like the twice-a-year fire drill you do at work. Seems boring at the time, but having a good idea of what it’s like to descend the fire escape in the dark is actually excellent practice.


Sooo. Let’s said that I lost my phone. I have 2FA enabled. How am I going to get the code that that google sends to the phone in order to authenticate if I don’t have my phone to begin with?


My thoughts exactly! You can print out a list of one time codes which you would most likely store in your wallet. So if someone steals your wallet and phone I guess you’d have to wait the 3-5 days to your account back and wouldn’t be able to track your phone until then.


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