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Google boosts data protection, enabling users to find, lock and reset lost Android smartphones

Google this week boosted its Android Device Manager with a new remote lock feature.

Users can now lock down a stolen phone or misplaced tablet from anywhere with web access, ensuring the security of their personal data from afar.

To take advantage of the new function, visit the Android Device Manager on your handset, and make sure to turn on the options to remotely locate a device and to allow remote lock and factory reset. Then, set a new password to be entered when, and if, the device is recovered.

Google reminds all users to get creative and make up a new password, instead of simply reusing your Google Account code.

In the case of a lost or stolen phone or tablet, head to the Android Device Manager website, find the appropriate gadget, and choose one of three options: Ring, Lock, or Erase. To secure your device, choose "Lock," then enter and confirm a new password, which will be required to open the handset.

Those still worried about someone hacking into their embarrassing photo album or clicking through their Tinder app without permission can also remotely erase the contents of their phone, essentially performing a factory reset.

Meanwhile, if you're sure your phone is simply hidden in the nearby couch cushions or under a stack of magazines, try setting it to "Ring" and listen for the tonal sounds of "Blurred Lines" playing from the bottom of your purse.

The Android Device Manager service rolled out to Google handset users last month, offering location tracking and a remote wipe functionality for those devices running Android 2.2 or higher.

Apple has been offering the similar Find My iPhone service for years, allowing iOS users to remotely locate, lock, message, and wipe their phone. Last week's iOS 7 upgrade offered even more security, now requiring login credentials to unlock a device before clearing its data.

In fact, the new Apple system got a thumbs up from officials in New York and San Francisco, who are working to deter mobile gadget thefts in both cities.