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My dad found a phone a few weeks ago and asked me what he should do with it. Knowing how much it hurts to lose personal data, I said I could try to find the owner and send it back.

My first attempt was to search through the files on the SD card in order to find an identifying document (CV, bill, address...) but there were only family pictures.

My second attempt was to unlock the phone and check the information about the owner and the accounts linked to it. But for this to be possible adb has to be enabled. Good thing is that that particular brand shows an option for activating adb on the recovery menu.

But then, it's Android Oreo and I haven't found a way to lift the lock pattern. I thought I could bruteforce it over the shell (as I found there could be about 1300 possibilities for 2 to 5 point patterns), but there is the same attempt throttling as on the screen so that would take ages.

Finally, I found the owner in the most "social" way : The phone was displaying the weather for a particular place. It turns out that there are only 3K inhabitants in that city, si I thought that a big enough Facebook group might help me find the owner. So I posted a message on a 500 people FB group dedicated to this city with a selfie of the owner : someone identified her within 20 minutes.

Mission accomplished 😎

Comments
  • 16
    @NefixEstrada you gave me the ++ less than 2 minutes after I posted it! 😂
  • 13
    I sort rants by latest @ohemelaar
  • 21
    we need more people like you
  • 13
    Wow you did a lot of work to help him out. Kudos.
  • 16
    @phreakyphoenix I hope someday someone will do the same for me or my relatives :)
  • 28
    Sometimes, the simplest low-tech solution to a tech-related problem is the best choice.

    I remember a story some guy told me about his server room. He toiled for 3 days on end looking through networking code while trying to figure out the source of packet loss in his network. Only for a janitor to come along, notice the real issue, and solve the problem by socketing a CAT5 cable that was slightly out of position.

    Most tech-minded people look for the technical solution to a problem, whilst in truth, a more direct mechanical/physical approach could be more efficient at solving the problem.

    Glad you managed to help her in the end.
  • 9
    Well done. The photos might also have gps location tag. So you could drive by and knock on their door.
  • 6
    @electrineer I checked this too but there wasn't :/
  • 2
    God bless your code friend!!
  • 2
    I'm glad there are still people like this. Good job!
  • 7
    Such is the world that we live in that I would be careful posting this kind of thing. Regardless of intent, you've just admitted to attempting (and some extent succeeding) to break into someone else's phone. There's a thin line between helpful initiative and "cybercrime" which legislation still has a long way to catch up to.
  • 2
    Or you could have called one of their contacts and asked if they knew where the owner lived. :/
  • 8
    @Michelle kinda hard if you can't get past the lock screen
  • 1
    @electrineer
    If you didn't unlock it how did you see the weather?
  • 4
    @Michelle Google Assistant tends to show a weather notification, It was probably either that or something similar on the lockscreen.
  • 7
    Publishing an image of a random person is definitely in gray area even if the intents are good. If you want to be safe, just hand the item to your local police and they should be able to find the owner using IMEI or other means.
  • 4
    Dude, you are a saint. Loss of personal dats is painful. Pictures are memories you can’t get back.

    I wager you got 1000 karma points on this one. :-)
  • 1
    @Mckol @Michelle Yes the weather notification showed up on the lock screen
  • 6
    @electrineer I don't trust the French police enough for that, as I doubt they would move their asses that much *just* for a lost telephone. I'd rather handle the matter myself to be sure it actually gets returned
  • 3
    @ohemelaar yeah it's an issue in developing countries
  • 0
    Determination ))
  • 3
    A good deed for the day
  • 2
    brb making a selfie...

    But seriously, that would not work with an encrypted SD Card. So I will better not lose it.

    Kudos to you for being a very nice citizen, though.
  • 2
    How much did you get for the phone on eBay? Sorry 😆
  • 3
    I'd be happy to lose any phone where your dad could find it and hand it over to you!
    That is kindness dedication!
    Please let us know her reaction when she got her phone back :)
  • 0
    just because my heart ache a bit
  • 1
    @Intronout Hahaha, not worth the hassle, it's a shitty brand and the screen is busted :p
  • 2
    @ohemelaar ah, that explains a lot. Haha, just joking man.
  • 0
    KISS principle in action.
  • 1
    @irene you took the wrong bus in the morning, happens to me all the time...
  • 3
    That's amazing! The world needs more people like you ❤️
  • 0
    @irene "Or so she thought..."
    *"the Twilight Zone" theme starts playing"
  • 1
    Mein Dick ist lang wie Bananen auf der Plantage //
    Ich bin dope, ich brauch eine Grammwaage

    Sheesh ihr Nerds seids gay am been und gettet k1ne Mäderls
  • 0
    This is an amazing story! Wish there were pictures too though!
  • 0
    Well, it has been 10 days now, and the owner still hasn't said whether she'd like to get her phone back or not... Am I allowed to reset it and give it to my father then?
  • 1
    Imagine going through the pictures and finding only dick pics.
    .
    Good job btw!
  • 0
    404: Phone not found
  • 1
    @davenall I guess for that you need to have a custom recovery to access the /data/system folder... I presume most users don't have that xD
  • 0
    @davenall @phreakyphoenix In the end the owner didn't want to get the phone back, and as I reinitialized the phone I found out that I could remove the lock pattern without knowing the old one ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Petty weird, as I couldn't do that before
  • 0
    @ohemelaar What do you mean by reinitialize? After factory reset, the lock and security features are reset, do you mean that?
    And why didn't he want the phone back...
    What came to my mind from this was a secret agent, turning on the gps and putting it in someone's pocket or a moving truck, to befuddle the enemy from tracking him. YOU MET A SPY haha.
  • 1
    @phreakyphoenix Nope, I mean that after factory resetting it, the phone was still bound to the owner's Google account, thus the phone still had the lock pattern. But it could be removed this time, whereas before I couldn't remove the lock without the old pattern.
    The phone is a pretty low quality one, the screen was busted, the camera scratched... Also, because my dad waited quite long before handing me the phone, I guess the owner had bought a new one in the meantime
  • 0
    @ohemelaar maybe the user removed it from his list of devices attached to his account or something like that... Who cares, now you can salvage the parts or do something else, literally having an extra phone is very cool... I once hacked my old phone into a lil server, but it had so much latency, it was only good for a project, not any real world thing.
  • 1
    @phreakyphoenix I gave this phone back to my father. He's never had a smartphone and thus couldn't communicate easily with one of my brothers who lives abroad. So I'm slowly explaining him how that damn thing works 😅
  • 0
    God bless your autism...
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