A nontechnical way to find missing iPhone

This is probably my last post in 2012 – the end of the world, since we will say goodbye to it in two days -:). So happy we all survive and live one. To all my friends and visitors, Merry Christmas and happy New Year.

I have been writing many technical things this year, so somehow I decide to put an end to it with a post about a nontechnical yet feasible way to track down missing iPhone. I seldom write about Apple and iOS devices as I could hardly afford them. I even post on forums complaining that Apple charge top dollar here, which of course serves no purpose. However I do have friends own iOS devices, and sometimes they could ask me certain questions about how to locate their handsets. We here do not have insurance, so if you lose your handset, you need to buy a new one. And that’s why this post is here.

OK enough off-topic talking. There are two situations in which we need to locate an iPhone:

1. You misplaced your handset. For example, you leave it in a drawer or in your office and could not remember. In this case, try using our cell phone finder to call it online if you do not have another device at hand. Try Find My iPhone if you could not hear your ringtone by calling it. Generally you can find your handset without much difficulty.

2. Your iOS device gets stolen. This is really serious. If you ever enable Find My iPhone whether when activating it or later, simply use another iPhone or login to Apple server to locate it. This usually works, a lot. However it does not work if the thief knows too much about Apple products. The thief could shut down the phone, or remove the battery. If you call your number, you will know it.

In this case, we need this nontechnical way to find the missing mobile device, and it works a lot too. But we need a little social engineering knowledge. Yeah, social engineering, which is used by numerous hackers to attack others’ PC. For example, somebody is trying to crack his competitor’s Email password; brutal-force attack needs way too much time and computing power if the password is strong. Here we could use some social engineering tricks. Nowadays simple passwords are widely used, many people use simple combinations like 12345, asdfg, birthdates, social security number or cell phone number and their combinations as passwords. Or you can click on forget password, and reset the password by answering a few simple questions. This is how social engineering works.

So how we could use social engineering here? In general a thief would wipe the iPhone he steals for money, so he needs to reset the device and remove all information stored. However, normally we use pattern to lock the Smartphone, which could not be easily figured out. So the thief needs to send it to some authorized repair shops for various reasons so that warranty won’t void. And the new phone needs reactivation with a SIM card.

When activating an iOS device, the Apple server will log the ICCID number. ICCID stands for Integrate circuit card identity; it is flashed into SIM card which is unique and can’t be changed. Gives your carrier this number and they can tell you which cell phone number is associated with it, and even information about the owner in some countries. Now call a police and hopefully you can get your handset back. You can use your serial number to query this ICCID from Apple server in the past; however Apple blocked access this July, which is a pity. However some people can still get the ICCID number from Apple for a few bucks or even for free. Since I do not own any iOS device, I never research it and have no clue about how.

Even if you could not get the details of the mobile number from your carrier, there is another method. Once you get the number, try searching it, or using cell phone lookup service. You usually will know the proximate location of the number, like XX city, and in some cases Facebook, Twitter or Email information. This without doubt can help recover your handset.

What if the search just returns the rough location information? We early mentioned that the thief could send the device to Apple authorized repair shops for the sake of warranty (we won’t buy second-hand device without warranty, right?). So go to Apple website and find the repair shops, and call them one by one for repairing record. Give them as much information as you can, they may happen to have your device sent by the thief. Rush to the store with all your documents and call a police on your way. Even your handset has been picked up by the thief; they can assist you getting your handset back.

What if the thief uses your SIM card to reactivate your device? Well bad luck, next time remember to report loss to your carrier earlier.

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