After my near-miss catastrophe in Athens last month I am even keener on device security than ever before. I’ve always insisted on using logon passwords and, despite the occasional frustration, have never carried around an tablet or smartphone without a six-digit passcode. Even then, I do retain some faith in human nature and hope that a lost phone will be returned. Not so, it seems.
Data security company Symantec recently set up a sting operation to see what can happen to data on an unlocked stolen or lost phone. They placed 50 smartphones, full of dummy personal information, in several US and Canadian cities. The results were illuminating:
Six out of 10 finders tried to access the social media and email accounts on the phones, but perhaps they were trying to find the owner’s contact information. However, eight out of 10 finders attempted to access files marked, “HR Salaries” and “HR Cases.” And nearly half of the people who found the phones tried to access the phone owner’s bank account.
Scary stuff. As the authors point out, losing your phone is even worse than having your wallet stolen. At least, with your wallet, you have a clear course of action: stop all the cards as soon as possible. But with a smartphone, there is no end to the information a thief can glean. You are pretty powerless and will be left scrabbling around to change passwords and rack your brains for what personal information could have been stored.
Symantec, of course, want to sell you security software. Personally, I think the simple passcode lock is sufficient protection for the time it takes you to realise your loss, get to a computer and wipe the memory via Find My iPhone. If you do not have Find My iPhone/iPad/Mac switched on you are being reckless with your money and your identity.