CREDIT: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan
More than 3 million people had their smartphones stolen last year, many of which weren’t sufficiently protected with as much as a simple passcode to keep the phone’s data safe, according to a new survey.
The report highlights how valuable a commodity personal data has become as breaches and mobile device thefts rise. And despite consumers taking an increased interest in protecting their online identities and data, smartphone owners are not as diligent when it comes their mobile devices.
The survey found that while more smartphone owners were protecting their phones with a four-digit PIN, they did little else to protect themselves. Just over two-thirds of smartphone owners use a PIN to protect their phones, but less than 30 percent backup their phones or install software that can locate the phone if its lost or stolen, according to the survey. Only 11 percent used longer, more complicated passwords while barely 7 percent used more secure methods such as encryption.
“Unfortunately, the vast majority of smart-phone owners neglected to take more aggressive measures, such as creating longer passcodes and installing software that could locate their phone or remotely erase its contents,” Consumer Reports wrote.
Smartphones are prime targets for thieves because, even more so than computers, smartphones hold loads of personal information like banking and credit card information, photos, emails, and even your whereabouts thanks to GPS location. Moreover, many stolen smartphones are bought and sold on the black market, costing consumers $2.5 billion to replace and insure their devices.
Wireless carriers and law enforcement are struggling to contain the spike in thefts. Smartphone makers including Apple and Samsung and major wireless companies such as Verizon and Sprint recently vowed to make the “kill switch” a standard feature in all phones starting in 2015, a capability that will delete a stolen or lost phone’s contents remotely and render it useless.
Consumers are getting hit hard by data breaches and identity theft in recent years. The most recently discovered threat was the Heartbleed bug, which weakened thousands of websites’ security and exposed millions of passwords, credit card and other personal information. As many as 18 percent of Americans reported having their personal data stolen, including credit card or banking information and Social Security Numbers, according to Pew Research. One in four people who’ve had their personal data stolen also suffer identity theft.