I’m so glad I don’t have a Filofax

# Donald where’s your iPhone? #


Like a complete wombat, I left my smartphone in a taxi on Wednesday night.

I was in Edinburgh in order to speak at an event about digital transformation and security, hosted by the fine folks at VMware at a swanky hotel.

Maybe I was dazzled by the beauty of the scenery, the fantastic architecture, or befuddled by the bagpipe music… I don’t quite know how I managed to lose my phone, but it vanished during my journey from the airport to the hotel.

Sign up to our free newsletter.
Security news, advice, and tips.

I realised pretty much as soon as I got into the hotel, but the taxi obviously had disappeared.

Panic? Not necessary.

The phone was protected with Apple’s Touch ID for fingerprint scanning and encryption so tough that the FBI needs to go to court (or pay a huge amount of money) in an attempt to crack into its way into a killer’s iPhone 5C. Frankly, I felt pretty comfortable as I had a much more secure iPhone 6 running iOS 9.3.1.

Thanks to Apple’s “Find my iPhone” tracking service, I was able to enable “Lost mode”, and entertain myself watching the phone whizzing around in the back of an Edinburgh taxi, without having to worry that my data was at risk. And, of course, I could remotely wipe the phone “just in case”.

Lost iphone

Sadly, I don’t think the phone is coming back. Despite me having a good idea on where the taxi driver lives (I was able to see that he’d probably gone home for his dinner, and even get a Google Street View of his likely house, before heading off for new customers) it went offline an hour or so later.

I didn’t want to go around to what I suspected was the taxi driver’s house because, well, that can sometimes lead to problems.

My guess was that despite me sending the phone PING PING PING alerts and telling it to display a message saying it was lost, a passenger could have pinched it.

But I’m not worried. They can’t get at the data. I just buy a new phone. It’s mildly inconvenient, but nothing more.

I would have been much more worried if it had been a filofax, rather than a phone.

Ain’t technology wonderful?

PS. Edinburgh is a beautiful city to lose your iPhone in. If you get the chance, do visit.

Update: Shortly after I left Edinburgh, I received a message that the kindly taxi driver had returned my phone to the hotel! And it’s on its way home to me courtesy of one of those awfully nice fellows from VMware. Huzzah!

Of course, predictably, I had already ordered a shiny new iPhone 6s as a replacement for the one I thought I would never see again. So I guess the only thing left to say is – would anyone like to buy a never-used still shrinkwrapped iPhone 6s? ;-)

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

10 comments on “I’m so glad I don’t have a Filofax”

  1. David L

    Hi Graham,

    This story I read as soon as I saw the title! Glad you had a secure phone, and it is being returned. You can return the phone for a refund, perhaps only paying for shipping. Or sell it on eBay? If you bought it at a discount, you might make a profit to cover shipping. But, if you are not concerned about the cost, why not keep it as a spare, you know, in case you lose one again . ?

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to David L

      Thanks David. It appears that Apple has made it blindingly simple to return unwanted iPhones within 14 days of delivery, so that's what I'll do.

      They aren’t even charging me for shipping. :)

      1. Bob · in reply to Graham Cluley

        They're not allowed to charge you return postage Graham unless you've agreed to bear that cost in advance … them putting it in the small print is legal.

        When the UK transposed the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 we actually lost some protections that were previously conferred upon us by The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations. 2000.

        Apple do give great customer service compared to many retailers. Granted they're not always the most knowledgeable of staff but they do go out of their way to help. The thing that impresses me the most is that you can phone up during the day in the UK (or at night if you want to call the USA!) or get instant help via their website chat. I don't know of any other handset manufacturer that does that. But considering the initial outlay for one of their products (when you can get similar/better products for cheaper) I would expect fantastic service.

  2. Mark Jacobs

    I bid £1.00 – do I win yet?

  3. Bob

    I remember a story when something very similar happened except the lost item was a rather large business diary. It's somewhat well known amongst his colleagues so I shan't identify his job.

    He was traveling on a train (back when smartphones had just come out) and somehow misplaced his diary during the journey. In his defence I always saw him with reams of paper so mislaying a diary wouldn't be too difficult.

    I recall he was a forgetful man who wrote almost everything down – minutes of meetings, telephone numbers, details of contracts, pricing arrangements, client details etc. That diary was worth its (commercial) weight in gold.

    Upon his return he was seen frantically searching the office for this diary which of course was never found. He rang the train company, the taxi firm, his hotel but all to no avail.

    I don't know if he ever reported the loss to anybody externally but a few months later a very large corporate client had moved over to a competitor (I don't think they knew how the competitor had really acquired the contract and contacts they had).

    Then another potential client mentioned during a meeting something they could only have known if they (or somebody else – most likely the rival firm) had seen the diary and mentioned it during negotiations.

    I doubt he had anything overly personal in there (like photographs, private messages etc.) which we store on our smartphones nowadays but the commercial damage caused was significant.

    Moral of the story – buy an pre-encrypted device (like an iPhone) or manually activate it (if using Android). Most people who find a smartphone aren't going to be capable of, or willing, to spend their time and money trying to decrypt what could be any old device.

    However losing an unencrypted smartphone is tantamount to losing a FiloFax – it's like offering vodka to an alcoholic.

  4. Steve YATES

    I'll give you 20€ for it, as much as I'm willing to pay for an iThing

  5. Peter Freeman

    Or of course you could gift the new iPhone to the taxi driver, as a reward for his honesty in returning the lost phone to the hotel.

  6. DAVid Payne

    Perhaps you were distracted by seeing Arthur's Seat! (Ooo er!)

    Perhaps a BlackBerry phone is as or more secure too! And I think there is at least one secure FOSLHS phone. (Let's try not to feed suspicions that Apple is posting as Graham now! ;~)

    1. Bob · in reply to DAVid Payne

      BlackBerry are no longer relevant. They're also (now) notoriously insecure.

      Their CEO doesn't support strong security for everybody, they've handed out master keys to law enforcement for their messenger service, they've hidden backdoors in their operating system, they're removing BlackBerry money and they've now ceased development of BB10 (all future devices will be based on Android).

      Are those enough reasons not to use or trust BlackBerry?

What do you think? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.