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The Scary Consequences of a Lost Smartphone

By Christopher Maag

If you’re one of those people who tend to lose their phone shortly after putting it down, then you’ll want to read this. According to a new study, if you lose your smartphone, you have a 50/50 chance of getting it back. But chances are much higher – nearly 100% – that whoever retrieves it will try to access your private information and apps.

According to a study by Symantec, 96% of people who picked up the lost phones tried to access personal or business data on the device. In 45% of cases, people tried to access the corporate email client on the device.

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“This finding demonstrates the high risks posed by an unmanaged, lost smartphone to sensitive corporate information,” according to the report. “It demonstrates the need for proper security policies and device/data management.”

Symantec called the study the “Honey Stick Project.” In this case the honey on a stick consisted of 50 smartphones that were intentionally left in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Ottowa, Canada. The phones were deposited in spots that were easy to see, and where it would be plausible for someone to forget them, including food courts and public restrooms.

None of the phones had security features, like passwords, to block access. Each was loaded with dummy apps and files that contained no real information, but which had names like “Social Networking” and “Corporate Email” that made it easy for the person who found it to understand what each app did.

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