In a new study, technology firm Symantec learned just how tempted people are to mill lost smartphones for personal and business data. First, they ditched 50 smartphones equipped with GPS trackers at malls, food courts, and transit hubs around the U.S. and Canada. As bait, each phone was loaded with personal apps, photos and simulated corporate data.
The results were disturbing: Nearly half the phones’ finders (43 per cent) tried to key into mobile banking apps, and more than 72 per cent thumbed through private photo collections.
Overall, nearly every single one of the phones was accessed in some way and the majority of finders (70 per cent) went straight to the good stuff: personal and corporate-related apps. Nearly 90 per cent were interested in personal apps, while 83 per cent went for business information, particularly being drawn to files named “HR salaries” and “HR Cases.”
Other disturbing findings
-Just half of finders tried to return them
-Access to social networking accounts and personal email were each attempted on over 60 per cent of the devices
-A “Saved Passwords” file was accessed on 57 per cent of the phones
-66 per cent of the devices showed attempts to click through the login or password
“The point of all of this is not to say that people are bad. It’s that people are naturally curious and when temptation is put in front of them they tend to bite the apple (some take many bites),” said Symantec’s Kevin Haley.
The problem is only 38 per cent of smartphone users are using the best possible tool at thwarting hackers from accessing their phone’s data: password-protecting their phone’s home screen.
“Just giving the phone password-based security would have prevented the casual finder from trolling through the data,” Haley says.
As an added protection, download thief-catching apps (like iGotYa) that snap a photo of any person who tries to access your cell phone but can’t get past the passcode screen. Once the thief enters the incorrect code after a few tries, the phone takes his photo and shoots it off to your email inbox. You can also use iLocalis or MobileMe, which let you track your iPhone long after it’s gone.