Samsung’s Repair Mode is the best, and more phone manufacturers should apply it

Samsung’s new repair mode is such a brilliant idea that it should be standard on all devices.

 

Samsung's Repair Mode

It’s a special semi-lockdown mode that allows repair personnel to inspect your phone without gaining access to your personal information. You activate it before sending your phone in for repair and deactivate it when you receive it back. Meanwhile, access to personal data such as images, messages, and passwords is restricted.

“Our phones include a lot of sensitive data, such as saved passwords, social networking accounts, and more,” Anirban Saha, founder of Techbullish and a technology writer, told Lifewire via email. “We can’t sign out if your phone is destroyed. Once the smartphone has been mended, the notification may appear on the lock screen, giving us information. As a result, having a lockdown mode like Samsung’s is critical.”

Repairing Trust

When you take a phone in for repair, the technician may require access to the software side. Before they can fix anything, they may need to check the calibration of a screen or battery, or just run diagnostics to establish what the problem is.

The issue is that your phone’s locked status is binary. It is either locked or not. Some functions require a passcode to access even when the phone is open, but the majority of it—including your messages, email, images, and other data—is accessible to anybody with an unlocked phone.

 

“It all relies on the problem that needs to be fixed. If the repair is on the physical device, access to personal data should not be required; however, if the problem is with the software, access to specific updates and blockers may be required. If the repair team needs to access any personal information, they should notify you “Tim McGuire, CEO of Mobile Klinik, confirmed this to Lifewire via email.

But repair engineers are human, and if they could all be trusted, we wouldn’t hear stories about Apple-contracted repairpeople posting naked selfies on Facebook.

This is when Samsung’s repair mode comes into play.

Lockdown

When you take your phone in for repair—any repair—the best practice is to wipe it clean and reset it to factory settings. Of course, you should have a recent, tested backup so you can restore it when you receive your phone or computer back. Your data is never at risk of being stolen since it is never in the hands of someone who could take it.

But this is inconvenient, and who wants to go through hours of technical effort only to replace a battery? Nobody, that is. So we simply hand over our phones, provide the repairperson with our unlock pass if requested, and pray for the best.

That is a bad way to go about things.

Samsung’s repair option will first be enabled via software update on its Galaxy S21 series handsets. The only issue is that Samsung has a poor track record when it comes to privacy and security. When you hand up your phone to someone, you need to be able to trust that it is safe and not just a thin veneer that is easily shattered.

The implementation would be much better at the operational level. Google and Apple could conceivably incorporate this into Android, Chrome, iOS, and macOS. That way, it would be as secure as a fully-locked phone while yet providing access to critical diagnostic tools.

If the repair technicians need to access any personal information, they should notify you.

A remote repair method should also be available. Assume your phone’s screen is damaged and you can’t use it at all. To safeguard it, how do you put it in repair mode? Along with the existing lock and remote-wipe functionality, Apple may include a switch in the Find My app.

Finally, you must trust your phone service provider because they already have access to everything you do on the phone. So, if you believe Samsung, this new function appears to be excellent. If you’re more suspicious, you could wait to see if Apple or Google replicate this concept. Meanwhile, get used to the inconvenience of wiping your phone every time it requires a new screen or battery.

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