- Samsung’s Repair Mode will lock your Galaxy S21 phone while it’s being repaired.
- Never give an unlocked phone to a stranger, even if they ask.
- All phones and computers should have repair lock mode.
Samsung’s new repair mode What a great idea, it should be a standard feature of all gadgets.
This is a special semi-lock feature that allows a service technician to check your phone without accessing your private data. You use your phone before sending it in for repair and unlock it again when you get it back. At the same time, access to personal data such as photos, messages and passwords is blocked.
“Our phones have a lot of private data, including saved passwords, social media accounts, and more,” tech writer and founder Tech is bullish, Anilban Saha, told Lifewire via email. “Once your phone is broken, we can’t get out. Once the smartphone is repaired, notifications will pop up on the lock screen showing our data. So having a lock mode like Samsung’s is critical.”
When you send your phone in for repair, a technician may need access to the software side. They may need to check the calibration of the screen or battery, or just run diagnostics to identify the problem before any problems can be fixed.
The problem with this is that your phone’s lock status is binary. It’s either locked or not. Some features require a passcode to access even when the phone is unlocked, but most features (including your messages, emails, photos, etc.) are available to anyone with an unlocked phone.
“It all depends on the problem to be fixed. If the repair needs to be done on a physical device, access to personal data is not required, but if it is software related, access to certain updates and blockers may be required. If a repair technician has to access any personal information, they should alert you,” Tim McGuireCEO of Mobile Klinik, told Lifewire via email.
But maintenance engineers are people, and if they could all be trusted, we wouldn’t hear the story of Apple signing up Maintenance staff uploads nude photos of customers to Facebook.
That’s where Samsung Repair Mode comes in.
When you send your phone in for repair (any repair), the best practice is to completely wipe the device and reset it to factory settings. Of course, you should also have a tested, up-to-date backup so you can restore it when you get your phone or computer back. Your data is never in danger of being stolen because it never falls into the hands of anyone who might steal it.
But it’s cumbersome, and who wants to spend hours of technical work just to quickly replace the battery? No one, just that one. So we just hand the phone over to the repairman, if asked, give the repairman our unlock code and hope all goes well.
This is a horrible method.
Samsung’s repair mode will first be available on its Galaxy S21 series of phones via a software update.The only problem is that Samsung is privacy or security. When you hand your phone over to someone, you really need to be able to trust that it’s safe and not just a thin finish that is easily damaged.
There will be better implementation at the operational level. Google and Apple will likely build it into Android, Chrome, iOS and macOS. That way, it’ll be as secure as a completely locked phone, but with access to basic diagnostic tools.
If a service technician has to access any personal information, they should alert you.
Repair mode should also be accessible remotely. For example, let’s say your screen is smashed and you can’t use your phone at all. How do you switch it to repair mode to protect it? In addition to the existing lock and remote wipe features, Apple may build a switch into the Find My app.
Finally, you have to trust your cell phone provider because they already have access to everything you do on your phone. So if you trust Samsung, this new feature looks great. If you’re more skeptical, then you might be waiting to see if Apple or Google replicate the idea. At the same time, get used to the hassle of wiping down your phone every time you need a new screen or battery.
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