What will you lose if your devices broke down

Imagine a scenario and think of mitigating actions you can take

Last updated on 19 January 2024. Created on 14 January 2022.

Broadly speaking, most of us have at least two devices that we use to access our content, data and accounts. So in case one of our device is lost, broken or worse, it's easy to continue our activity as close to normal as possible. But there are some things we need to do to ensure this.

Moreover, have you considered what will happen if both of your devices have major issues at the same time?

I grant you that the chances for that to happen are somewhat low. But I still think it is a good idea to revise your plan annually. Or have one at least. Since more and more of our data and our lives is going digital.

Photos and videos, emails, messaging, bank, money, payments and orders, documents, digital projects and more. All of them can be lost in a second if we are not careful.

Ah, and then there are some caveats. Let's take the "I've lost my phone" as an example. If you have "Find my device" (Android) or "Find my phone" (iOS) enabled, you will have a chance of figuring out where it is.

But let us not fool ourselves:

  • First, each protective measure that we take can have a significant privacy risk that can be reverted and used against us. Going forward with the phone example, if access to your account is not secure enough, others can use the same functionality to track your whereabouts, right?
  • The system is not foolproof. In case of theft, there are things that can be done to render your action ineffective.

This applies to any measure you can think of.

So, here's the general idea.

  1. Try to simulate what would happen if you have one device but not the other. The easiest way is to put your phone in another room, turn of internet access for it and use your other device like you would normally. And then see when and why you would actually need to go to your room and use your phone. Most common case here is related to authentication. Two-factor authentication to be more precise. So, if you try and login into sensitive accounts, you would receive on your phone a notification, an SMS, or a code provided by the app. So what happens if you can't access your phone? What are your backup strategies in those cases?

  2. Try to simulate the reverse. You have your phone, but your laptop/PC/tablet is broken. What accounts will be difficult to get into. What data might not be available to you anymore? Spot these problems and figure out a way to prevent them from becoming a nuisance.

  3. And now for the hard part. Your phone is lost, and your other device is broken. Or you are in a different country or whatever. What now? How would you authenticate into your most critical accounts? Also, do you know which are your most critical accounts? Do they at least have a strong password? Food for thought.

Some other things to keep in mind:

If your system is too easy, it's bad.

Let's go with a simplified scenario. All of your important stuff is only on your phone. And your entire phone is backed up to the cloud each day. And because you use your phone daily you want to make it very convenient for you to use it. So you set up 1234 as your unlock code or something like that. Now what? The phone broke down, you get another one, you enter your credentials (username and password but no 2FA because...convenience) and restore your backup, and you are good to go, right?


The simplified scenario tells me only one thing. You have a single point of failure in your entire digital life, and it's very weak. It's almost like you have a place of your own, and you use a key to enter your phone. The key sits somewhere around the entrance physically. You take it, use it to enter and leave the key out. For anybody paying a little attention means they can get in as well. They can destroy all, remove all or impersonate you easily.

If your system is too complicated, you might not cover all scenarios

This applies to people who have security and privacy as top priority as opposed to convenience. The combination of encryption, strong passwords, offline authentication, backup codes and others can lead to you not covering all your basis. There's also the case of people not preferring cloud backup. Which adds a bit of complexity but if they are up for it, great. Make sure though that the hassle is worth it.

If you had to choose between too easy or too hard, I would go with the second option.

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