Theft of mobile phones is on the rise, despite measures from manufacturers that can wipe devices that have been taken by someone else. But should your handset be stolen, you could stand to lose far more than the device itself, with a huge amount of your personal data being put at risk.
A recent poll by Dialaphone found that while many people are concerned about private information falling into someone else’s hands, there are almost as many who do not worry about this happening, a result which alarmed us.
According to the Crime Survey for England Wales there were 826,000 incidents of theft involving mobile phones in 2012. This shocking figure is even more worrying when it is pointed out that it represents an increase of almost 30,000 on the previous year, marking a steady but significant rise in such crimes. At most risk from mobile phone theft are women between the ages of 18 and 24, with men of the same age group being slightly less likely to have their handset stolen but still at risk nevertheless.
So, aside from the actual loss of an expensive smartphone, what do you stand to lose should someone take your handset from you? Well, imagine if someone gained access to your phone as it is right now.
They could almost certainly play havoc with your social life, since many smartphone users have social networking apps installed, with their accounts signed-in automatically. Beyond the ability to post messages to Facebook or Twitter, a criminal could also gain information about where you have been, where you live and who you keep in contact with, all from data held within these apps.
Beyond this, an enormous amount of sensitive information could be found within your emails, all of which may well be always open on your handset. Along with your own details, important work-based information could go missing, with the potential to land you in even more trouble.
Furthermore, there are many apps which link to bank accounts and store your financial history. While a lot of these are designed with security in mind and may not be accessible without their own passcodes, it is worth remembering that these might not be totally secure and could be at risk in the hands of serious hackers.
What should also worry smartphone users is that you don’t have to have your handset stolen for your personal data to be taken from it. Public Wi-Fi is notoriously insecure and sending data over it can leave you dangerously exposed to someone who has connected to the same network. Logging into bank accounts, ordering goods online or simply sharing messages and photos could see you data falling into the wrong hands.
But it’s not all doom and gloom and some simple measures can be taken to keep your data secure, making sure that should you lose your phone there isn’t the added inconvenience of having all your personal information exposed.
Where public Wi-Fi is concerned, have a think about the sort of information that you are sending over a connection and save the really important stuff until you get home, or at least are connected to a more restricted network.
There are further measures, such as a scheme run by several providers which sees IMEI numbers of stolen devices blacklisted so that they cannot connect to networks. While this does not directly protect your data, it will be a useful deterrent to anyone thinking of stealing a phone.
Finally, and simplest of all, use a passcode on your handset; this is a straightforward way of preventing thieves from accessing anything stored upon it. Many handsets and mobile platforms now have options built in that allow you to remotely wipe the data stored upon them and while this won’t bring the device back it will remove anything sensitive that you have been keeping on it. While no one can guarantee that a handset protected in this way will be secure against anything, it’s the best an easiest way of keeping your data safe.