Cell phone thefts are on the rise, with 40% of all thefts involving a cell phone. And smartphone makers are cashing in on you loosing your phone also, with an estimated $2.3 billion worth of sales in 2011 attributed solely to replacing a lost smartphone in the US.
In todays cyber world, thieves are learning they only need to steal your smartphone to get your money and lots of other personal information, in fact theft of smartphones as a crime itself is up 37% last year. The majority of the stolen smartphones are discarded after only 5 hours of use by the thief, having gotten all the info they wanted from your phone.
These days, people keep all sorts of information on their smartphone, names, dates of birth, credit card info, banking info and log in credentials, email accounts and passwords, private pictures, voice recordings, calendars, work schedules, and so much more. Loosing your smartphone can mean a serious disruption in your life. Even mobile boarding passes for passing through airport security have been digitized to a smartphone app.
In a recent experiment by security firm Symantec, the results helped put the problem into focus. They intentionally lost 50 phones in major cities in the US. Each phone was equipped with software that allowed Symantec to monitor the phone and what the finder was doing on the phone.
In about 50% of the cases, the finder eventually tried to return the phone only after snooping through the phone and private areas like photographs, banking info, email, password protected files and credit card apps. The other remaining 50% were never returned and instead used by unknown finders who attempted to take the planted information and use it for their own gain.
"People looked at private pictures. They tried to access a banking account by logging into a person's bank," said Kevin Haley of Symantec. 43% actually tried accessing the banking app on the phone repeatedly. 63% tried to bypass the log in or to reset the log in PIN code or the phone's master password.
Security experts say to protect yourself and your information, be sure to keep a security lock on your phone such as a PIN or swipe pattern, back up your phone frequently, and enable gps location features which will allow you to track your phone from your computer.
Some will allow you to send a lock signal to the phone preventing all the but most skilled from accessing it, and you can even wipe the smartphone clean if you really feel the need to be safe.