Mar 14 AT 1:50 PM Edgar Cervantes 26 Comments

Study: Lost phone finders will only contact you half of the time, information will not stay private

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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?

Via: Gizmodo

Source: Symantec

Hello, I am Edgar Cervantes. I am an avid Android fan, and keeping myself updated on the topic is part of my daily life. I will always work hard to give the best of me to our community of Android enthusiasts, and I am very honored to be part of this ship. Hopefully we can all enjoy sharing our knowledge and opinions!

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  • Christopher Matthews

    With AT&T, they admit almost no chance of recovery or tracking, since all someone needs is a SIM card. At least Verizon and Sprint “claim” that they can block the device from being added to someone else’s line if they have the IMEI code. Device recovery is almost non-existant.

    Since I don’t work for NCIS or some other overfunded agency that appears on TV, I’d rather trust in my own security apps like Cerberus and Avast.

    • Edgar Cervantes

      I use avast. And no, guys. I am not getting paid to advertise them. I mention them a lot, but that is because I really do use it and think it works great. I am so in love with the root features.

      But my major concern is keeping information safe. Once that phone is nowhere to be found, I seriously couldn’t care less about how much it costs. That device has information that could destroy my life under the wrong hands (at least for a while).

      • professandobey

        I’m digging Avast! too. In July both my wife’s OG Droid and mine were stolen from our car during a Krav Maga class. We had Seek Droid installed on both phones, but it was deactivated due to recent updates. There was nothing we could do except rush to a computer to change all our passwords and tell Google to log out all open sessions of our accounts.

        Fortunately, nothing bad happened. Later we found 2 OG Droids listed on Craigslist with bad ESNs and no accessories or manuals. Now we have Avast! embedded in the root, and are careful to keep it active and up to date. My wife should still set up a lock pattern though.

      • TruFactz

        Yes, Avast is wonderful, i check it everyday and put my phone in those kind of situations just as a test with my girl, she’ll swap out her chip put it in mine and when the phone is powered up it immediately locks up the phone, sounds the alarm and sends a text to my cousins phone, now the battery alert thing I’ve never heard work but as far as tracking the device and sending remote commands to it, is great just theres a lot of commands you have to remember.

    • DJm25

      teh ..a person who knows that they are doing can simply change the imei number …the solution is to not lose the phone ..and have a security system (similar to that of black berry)that would wipe your phone just in case you lose it

  • unwiredmedic

    With AT&T, they admit almost no chance of recovery or tracking, since all someone needs is a SIM card. At least Verizon and Sprint “claim” that they can block the device from being added to someone else’s line if they have the IMEI code. Device recovery is almost non-existant.

    Since I don’t work for NCIS or some other overfunded agency that appears on TV, I’d rather trust in my own security apps like Cerberus and Avast.

    (Sorry about the duplicate comment, I thought I was logged in.)

  • Joel

    When I had the first Galaxy S I did use an app that allowed me to apply a pw to the apps that needed it – in addition to the regular pattern lockscreen..the security app could be killed with the task manager tho, id pray that a non savvy person would find it lol.

    The study sounds about right tho, Human curiosity combined with the need to look through stuff to contact the owner would produce high percentages.

    Sure ive recovered a smart phone (blackberry) and returned it, the owner gave me $5 for the trouble :)

    • ChaosKiller

      Password protect settings, that way the person can’t access the task manager.

  • krazytrixxxsta

    i use lookout and htc sense anti theft features.

  • Dima

    >96% of the devices were accessed by the finders
    Well that’s a valuable observation.
    I wonder how it is possible to return a device without accessing it to identify it’s owner?

  • amgala

    Avast! can install into the root partition to protect your phone even if it gets wiped. It is an awesome feature and the best part is that it is free! Simply amazing.

    • sunrise

      Avast dramatically slowed down my phone for some reason. I uninstalled it.

      There are other great programs out there that can also GPS track your phone, and install secretly to your system apps, without the slowdown I saw with Avast.

  • Nathan D.

    Well that sucks, I got my phone stolen before though and that suck!

  • http://youtube.com/user/jawckamoe Marcus

    I’ve gotten my phone stolen once… I haven’t got it back. And I couldn’t report it as stolen because I got rid of the box that had the serial number on it… :(

  • sunrise

    If I find a phone, the first thing I do is try to get it back to it’s rightful owner. You could even call 611 on the phone and let the carrier know you found the phone so that they could get it back to the original owner. You could go through the call log, look at frequent calls, call a number and say “hey let the owner know I found their phone.” Many ways to get a phone back to the original owner.

    Sadly, some people don’t have morals or ethics. “oh look I found a shiny new $600 phone, oh is that the owner calling trying to get it back? I better take the sim card out and keep this shiny new toy.”

    People are shady, if you find a phone, get it back to the owner, seriously.

  • LittleDebbie11

    Haha, what excellent timing, my phone was just stolen last week. And in my infinite wisdom, the only tracking app I had on there was Where’s My Droid. Very bad choice.
    Later I found the app AndroidLost, it seems to be the only app you can push to your device & can use it without setting up the phone (side from a text message activation

  • LittleDebbie11

    I highly recommend Android Lost…

    Haha, excellent timing on this post, my phone was just stolen last week. And in my infinite wisdom, the only tracking app I had on there was Where’s My Droid. Very bad choice.
    Later I found AndroidLost, I was pretty impressed… it seems to be the only app you can push to your device & can use it without setting it up on the phone (aside from a text message activation which is hidden from the user). It uses your Gmail account to relay commands… You can lock the phone, GPS it, wipe it, wipe the SD card & it’s super low on memory usage. :)

  • phor11

    This may be a dumb question, but how can they get odd numbered %’s out of a sample size of 50?

    These statistics scream bull*$&% to me…

    • Nathan

      Clever observation, but perhaps there’s ‘unknown’ results – maybe the tracking software wasn’t able to return data on one of the phones

  • spazby

    i am using lookout, so there are some options…

  • http://www.brokemanstech.com Juan Almanzar

    I have a pattern lock on my phone. I also took advantage of Ice Scream Sandwich’s security lock screen message feature and left a message stating:

    “If found, please contact ***-***-****. Reward if phone is returned. Thank you.”

  • rashad360

    This is upsetting… I’m glad I have seekdroid on mine just in case the finder isn’t willing to help out

  • Biggie

    i found a phone like 7 months back and i tried to give it back to its rightful owner but the phone was locked so there wasn’t anything i could do to get a name or number to contact the owner , i tried going to a Verizon store to see if they could check the serial number and contact the owner,they told me that they couldn’t release any information about the phone or the owner because it was against their policies well after all i kept the phone i unlocked it and started using it as a music player.One day i got pulled over and they cops pulled me out of my car and searched it because they said i looked suspicious (Hispanic) well they saw that i had my phone and that other phone hooked up to the cd player and they automatically assumed that i had stolen the phone, they confiscated the phone and charged me with theft so i wouldn’t recommend to anybody that finds a phone to keep it because believe me they aren’t going to believe you found it.

    • Frank

      So why not hand it in to nearest police when found ? That might be the first place owner would look !

  • Abdellah halif
  • Monster Beats Tour Earphones

    I use avast. And no, guys. I am not getting paid to advertise them.Monster beats studio superman headphones