How to Secure Your Cellphone When Holiday Shopping

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Hitting the mall for Black Friday? Or maybe out with old friends for a cocktail?

It’s all too easy to leave your phone behind.

A survey from Credent Technology, an Addison, Texas-based data protection firm, says twice as many mobile devices were lost in shopping malls this year than in 2011.

Credent examined lost phone rates at 15 of the 44 largest U.S. shopping malls and concluded that 5,754 devices were lost so far this year. That number should rise during the busy holiday shopping season. In fact, the survey notes that 67% of all missing mobile devices are lost between Black Friday and the end of the year.

Credent says that 95% of all mobile devices lost are either cellphones or tablet computers, although the survey is unclear about the wisdom of bringing a tablet computer on a shopping spree. While malls and retail outlets are doing a better job of recovering and returning lost mobile devices to owners, there is still a good chance your lost phone may be gone for good. Credent says many retail establishments wind up donating lost phones to charity – with all your sensitive data still active on the device.

That may not only compromise your data; if could compromise your employer’s data too, if it’s a company-owned device. The survey adds that even a relatively small number of hacking incidents – 855, according to the study – can trigger 174 million “compromised records.”

“These survey results again underscore the need for mobile device users to take the security of their valuable information seriously,” says Bob Heard, CEO of Credant. “There really is no substitute for following basic security protocols on the device and best practices for handling sensitive information. An individual’s misplaced device should never land their employer in the daily data breach headlines.”

What steps can you take to secure your cell or mobile device while you’re out during the holidays?

  • Make your device password secure. Be creative with your device’s security password. Make sure it doesn’t match anything on a social networking site – the first place a financial fraudster will go after getting your name to research password possibilities.
  • Be pocket smart. Don’t leave anything to chance. Make a habit of stashing your mobile device away in your pocket or, in the case of a tablet computer, in a satchel or briefcase after using it. Thieves are opportunistic by nature – when the phone or tablet device is out in the open, it increases the odds of being stolen.
  • Lock it down. Turn your device’s “remote kill” feature on when out in public and your phone or tablet is stolen. Most carriers offer them and can help you clear personal data from a device with the click of a button. Yes, it’s an inconvenience, but it’s your best insurance against having your data compromised.

Losing your cellphone while at the mall or out on the town is easier than you might think. Be cautious and prepared this holiday season and you won’t have the nightmare of a lost phone or tablet to deal with on your holiday “to do” list.

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