Lost your phone? There's a 50/50 chance of getting it back

If you've lost your phone, it'll probably be rifled through, as new research reveals only half of smart phones are returned.

Do you know where your Samsung Galaxy S2 is? When did you last see your iPhone 4S ? If you've lost your smart phone, you'd better resign yourself to never seeing it again, as new research reveals barely half of smart phones get returned.

Security firm Symantec decided to see what happens to lost phones in its Smartphone Honey Stick Project. When you mislay your phone, will you ever see it again -- and how safe is your data when it's in the hands of a stranger?

Symantec, the folks behind Norton AntiVirus, deliberately lost 50 smart phones in lifts, shopping centres and public transport stops in New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Ottawa. The phones were then tracked to see whether the person finding them tried to have a snoop around.

The phones were filled with fake personal and work data, with no passwords to protect them. 96 per cent of the lost smart phones were accessed by the people who found them. Many of those people were doing the obvious thing and looking through the contacts or social networks for a way to contact the phone's owner, which is fair enough.

In fact, they easily found an entry called Me in the Contacts app, which included an email address and contact number for the purported owner of the phone. Yet only half of those who found the phones contacted the owner.

And eight out of ten people finding the phones went further, having a dekko at the work information, including a file labelled 'HR Salaries'. And 43 per cent of discoverers tried to log in to the online banking app. The cheeky blighters!

Of course, it's worth remembering that Symantec sells security measures, so is likely to offer such warnings with an eye towards making us feel as if we need extra protection.

Security is one of the headaches for IT departments as more and more of us want to use our Android phone or iPad for work. It's no wonder the consumerisation of IT has the corporate nerds freaking out.

Would you be tempted to take a peek at data on a phone you found? How do you protect your mobile? And what's the worst thing that's ever hapened to you after losing your phone? Tell me in the comments or on our Facebook page.

About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.


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