It is hard to trust a stranger’s honesty when it comes to lost smartphones. Not that we do not believe in our fellow citizens, but experiences and studies seem to show that people are not necessarily the most good-willed when finding a lost product of value. Such is the case with Symantec’s latest lost phone study, which shows some rather upsetting results.
In this study, Symantec purposely lost 50 devices in highly transited areas of large cities. The phones had tracking software, which informed Symantec of detailed usage. This included actions such as social networks, contacts (these need to be accessed by honest finders, as well), e-mail, personal pictures and even password managers.
I have lost multiple devices, and sadly, my first reaction does not include trying to get it back. That’s mainly due to the fact I have never recovered a lost phone. After attempting a call or two, I rush to the nearest computer and report it stolen, cancel the line, try to lock the device and change all the passwords for my personal services. Past experiences have showed me that the odds of me getting it back are not to my advantage. And honestly, all that private information is much more important than the price of the smartphone.
Symantec’s study shows better results than we may expect when it comes to a finder contacting the original owner. Apparently, 50% of smartphone finders will contact the owner and help him get it back. But what about that private information we personally put as top priority? It is not staying private, at least for the vast majority of the time.
The study shows that 96% of the devices were accessed by the finders. This is not alarming, as you need to access it to return it. But 89% were accessed for personal related apps and info. The study found 83% were accessed for corporate information and 70% were accessed for both personal and corporate related data.
People are almost sure to look at your private stuff, but you might want more details about the results. More specifically, 72% accessed private photos, 60% accessed social networks and email accounts, 43% tried to access online banking apps and a “saved passwords” file was opened 57% of the time.
If we single out corporate phones, things become more worrisome. Around 45% of them tried to access the corporate e-mail client, 53% tried to access a file called HR Salaries, and 40% tried to access another file, HR Cases.
We have no idea what regular Janes and Joes would do with such information. Odds are they are just doing it out of curiosity, and are not planning to do anything with it. But we suppose finders with the right knowledge and wrong intentions could make some damage.
The one thing we should learn from this study is to protect your information first. It is worth much more than any physical device. To me, getting the device back is just an extra bonus under such circumstances. This is why I continue to use security apps. While I have never worried much about malicious apps, features like anti-theft, device lock, and wipe can be very handy.
As it usually goes with such topics, we would like to know how our audience sees this. Have you ever recovered a lost smartphone? Do you use anti-theft and other security apps?