The internet vs Moley: why you shouldn’t steal a nerd’s phone

by: Bogdan PetrovanFebruary 2, 2013

security locked Credit: BanSpy/Flickr

It happens every day. People lose their smartphones, or worse, people get robbed. And while usually the story ends right there, with the missing phones remaining lost forever, in some cases, there’s a happy ending. That’s what happened to a 31-old Brit, who managed to recover his stolen Galaxy Note with the help of some fellow forum members and the Cerberus security app.

According to The Telegraph, which picked up the story after it popped up on Reddit and other sites, Richard Kay’s phone was stolen from his girlfriend’s house during a burglary. But Richard had an ace up his sleeve, because the phone was running Cerberus, a security app for Android that enables users to take control over the phone remotely.

Richard took to the tech forum Overclockers to share his mishap, and with the help of his online friends, he managed to snap pictures of the guy who had the Note, find his location, and eventually even his full name and Facebook profile. As you’d expect from a bunch of internet people, they even came up with a nickname for the alleged thief – Moley, after the mole on the man’s face.

stolen phone

Armed with the information he got from Cerberus, Richard called the local police, which, after some coaxing, paid a visit to the new user of the Galaxy Note. The story ends happily – the phone was recovered and Moley got a “caution” for the possession of a stolen good. He claimed that he bought the Note from a stranger on the street for £75.

To prove that the whole story (which unfolded over 40 hours and garnered hundreds of thousands of page views) was more than a publicity stunt for Cerberus, Richard Kay even posted images of the cops who got his phone back. Also, the police officially confirmed his story, and apologized for the delay in recovering the device.

And now for the PSAs. First, protect your investment; install a security app on your device, and make sure it works even if the phone is tampered with.

Second, don’t steal a nerd’s phone. It might come back to bite you.

  • Mārtiņš Belte

    Or, why you should be a geek if you intend on stealing someones phone.

  • I lost my phone right after I uninstalled that Avast security app.. dunno if that really works but :( too bad

  • Whats nerdy got to do with anything ?
    these are common security measures EVERY individual must know about their phone

    • Because the people on Overclockers are usually considered nerds. But, yeah, it should be common sense for everyone…

  • Conner Rhoads

    You know, with apps like Avast out there, I think anyone who steals a smart phone is an absolute idiot.

    Once at the gym, someone asked me why I don’t have a problem leaving my tablet lay around while I am working out. I pulled out my phone and turned the stolen alarm on on my Tablet and it freaked everyone out in the gym.

    I think after that little demonstration no one there even thinks about touching any one else’s electronics, lol.

    • NicholasMicallef

      Unless the thief knows how to do a factory reset… At that point you can still use things such as Cerberus with root (possibly samsung’s dive too. not sure about that), but most people don’t have root.

      • ukgooey

        It doesn’t matter with Avast whether you factory reset it, change the SIM etc. It still stays functional and even sends you the new phone number of a replacement SIM (rooted install only). It’s awesome.

        • odoid

          yeah but flash new rom is a matter of 2 minutes (if you have everything prepared)!! in 30 you can have changed rom, imiei and csc code (country code). it doesnt matter what you have installed, first protection is to think!

          • Conner Rhoads

            2 Minutes — if you know what you’re doing.

            Only the Advanced Level Geeks really understand how to flash roms on phones; do you REALLY think the average thug is going to know how ?

  • sterling

    that’s because the thief was too dumb,
    or he was too curious to get valuable information inside the device.

    any experienced thief will turn device off at scene, do reflash/ factory reset somewhere, then re-sell. no hassle.
    any security countermeasure will be ineffective by that. and, unfortunately, that’s what most phone thieves do at my country… :(

    I remember there’s kind of plastic bag that able to block any signal when device put inside it (gsm radio, wifi, bt). combined with soundproof bag that would render any phone security useless.

    what make me sad is, only story like this that got lots publication.
    whereas case when phone with maximum security still easily get stolen didn’t get any highlight at all..

    • NicholasMicallef

      The irony is he actually installed an anti-theft app himself xD (prey)

  • mike

    UHNNN what you know about stealing phones!!

  • I will definitely pay for Cerberus now, if some dumbass steals my phone I shall troll them for a good while

  • I too have a similar story. My Nexus 10 was stolen out of a gym locker…I used lookout to continually try to locate the device. I couldnt get a location but could see it was connected for about a week and a half…then the thief turned the GPS on for a minute. I was able to get a GPS lock on an address, then i cross referenced that address with the gym to get a name, gave that information to the police, and the police were able to recover the device and get an arrest warrant for the thief! Anyone that steals a phone or tablet is an idiot because there are so many apps out there that makes it hard for the thief to get away. Cerberus is definitely the best if you’re rooted though.