Your iPhone Uses Two Factor Authentication, But You’ve Lost It. Now What?

by Kelly McNeil on December 18, 2019 in

Last month, we covered what to do to protect your digital life if you lose an Android device with access to your online accounts. But what if you’re a member of the 45% of Americans that have an iPhone as their smartphone of choice? This month, we’ll be covering what to do if you lose your Apple device.

In case you missed last month’s article, we’ll recap: most people with online accounts have been asked to enable two-factor authentication (2FA) before. While it’s not foolproof, it’s one of the most accessible online security measures you can take, and we at TechBldrs recommend it highly. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft encourage users to add a device- like a mobile phone- to which they can send a login code when an attempted account login is registered.

If you’re the owner of the account, great: you input the 2FA code when prompted and gain access. If the person trying to access your account isn’t you, then that added layer of security just saved you a major headache.

But what happens if the person trying to access your account is you, you’ve just lost or broken your phone? And how do you prevent people using your phone to generate 2FA codes that they can use to gain access to your accounts?

In this article, we’ll review what to do if you’ve lost a device (like an iPhone or iPad) with access to an Apple ID.

Step #1: Before you lose your phone

Nobody plans on losing their phone, but there are some important preventative measures you can take right now that will help you in case the worst happens. If you want the best outcome, they’re necessary!

  • Add an additional trusted phone number to your Apple account

If your iPhone is your only trusted device and it goes missing or becomes damaged, you’ll be unable to receive verification codes Apple requires in order for you to log into your account.

You can update your trusted phone numbers by following these steps:

  1. Go to appleid.apple.com
  2. Sign-in with your Apple ID
  3. Navigate to the “Security” section and click “Edit”
  4. Select “Add a Trusted Number” and then enter the number you wish to add
  5. Choose to verify the number with a text message or an automated phone call
  • Activate Find My iPhone

Most of Apple’s recovery and security features require you to have Find My iPhone enabled. Here’s how you enable it:

  1. On your device, go to “Settings”
  2. Tap your name
  3. Select “iCloud”
  4. In the “Apps Using iCloud” section, scroll to “Find My iPhone”
  5. If “Find My iPhone” is set to “Off,” tap “Find My iPhone”
  6. In the “Find My iPhone” screen, turn on the “Find My iPhone” slider

If you’ve lost your iPhone, using Find My iPhone is the best step you can take towards trying to get your phone back. If you haven’t set up Find My iPhone yet, then go do it now! (We’ll wait). Without it, your options are severely limited.

Step #2: After you lose your phone

The worst happened. But if you’ve done Step #1, don’t panic! There’s a lot you can to do secure your online life and regain access to your accounts.

It’s important to note that for many of the following steps to work you must know your Apple ID information before you lose your phone, and you must have previously set up Find My iPhone on your device.

  • Activate Call and Text Forwarding

If your 2FA codes come via text, you can gain access to them by asking your cell phone provider to forward all incoming calls and texts to another mobile device of your choice, like a family member’s phone or a work phone. (And if your 2FA codes come in via email, this step could help you gain access to your email account.) All major carriers have Help phone numbers and live chat details listed on their websites that you can use to talk to them about turning on call and text forwarding for your account.

  • Turn on Lost Mode

Using Lost Mode, you can remotely lock your device with a passcode, display a custom message with your contact information, and disable the ability to use Apple Pay. This will also prevent someone with your phone from seeing any generated 2FA texts that your phone receives.

  1. Sign into icloud.com/find on a computer
  2. Click “All Devices,” then select the missing device you want to lock and put into Lost Mode
  3. Follow the onscreen instructions, keeping in mind that whatever contact information you input will be displayed on the screen of your missing device

If your device is online when you put it into Lost Mode, it locks and tracking begins (even if you’ve manually turned off Location Services on your device). If your device is offline, the passcode lock and tracking take effect the next time your phone comes online.

  • Erase your device

If you can’t locate your phone, you worry whose hands your missing device has gotten into, or it’s been lost for awhile, you can use the same Find My iPhone portal to erase the data off of your phone.

  1. Sign into icloud.com/find on a computer
  2. Select “All Devices,” then select the missing device you want to erase
  3. In the device’s “Info” window, click “Erase”
  4. When prompted, input your Apple ID password

If you find your device again, you can restore the information on your phone from any previous iCloud backup you have.

But what if I don’t have Find My iPhone enabled?

If you didn’t set up Find My iPhone before your device was lost, you can’t use it to locate your device. But you can still follow these steps to help protect your data:

  1. Change your Apple ID password. By changing your Apple ID password, you can prevent anyone from accessing your iCloud data or using other services (such as iMessage or iTunes) from your missing device.
  2. Change the passwords for the other online accounts on your device, like email accounts, Facebook, or Twitter.
  3. Report your lost or stolen device to local law enforcement and to your wireless carrier. Your carrier can disable your account, preventing phone calls, texts, and data use.

We store our entire lives on our mobile phones- pictures, emails, important account information, financial data, etc.- so make sure you’re familiar with the steps we’ve outlined above in order to keep the information on your phone safe. If you need further, detailed help, we recommend searching Apple Support’s articles.

Remember, the only way to ensure your cyber life is protected is through careful preparation and preventative measures like two-factor authentication!

Still have questions? Want to know what else you can do to protect your personal information online? Call us at (610) 937-0900 for advice or for a free cybersecurity assessment for your business!