Losing a smartphone won’t just cost you the price of a new phone. A recent study shows that there’s a strong likelihood it will cost you your privacy as well.
There is a 96% chance that the finder of a lost cellphone will access the device, and an 89% chance that the finder will access it for personal-related apps and information, according to a new study commissioned by the privacy software company Symantec Corp.
The study also found that there is only a 50% chance the finder will try to return the phone to the person who lost it.
Symantec arrived at these conclusions after deliberately “losing” a total of 50 smartphones in five cities: New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Ottawa, Canada.
The phones were preloaded with fake apps that would be instantly recognizable to a finder. They were also equipped with a GPS tracking device, as well as the ability to transmit data, such as when an app was opened, to a central database.
Researchers then left the phones in high-traffic areas like shopping malls, food courts and public transit stops and waited to see what happened.
The results were pretty depressing. According to the report, six out of 10 finders attempted to view social media information and email on the phones, eight out of 10 finders tried to access phony corporate information that Symantec had loaded on the phone and half of the finders even tried to access a bank account linked to the phone.
But before you despair, note that there is one very easy thing you can do to protect your phone: Make sure it is password protected.
“Just giving the phone password-based security would have prevented the casual finder from trolling through the data,” writes Kevin Healey on Symantec’s official blog.