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Report: 80 Percent of Mobile Phone Users Are at Risk for ID Theft
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March 18, 2009

Report: 80 Percent of Mobile Phone Users Are at Risk for ID Theft

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor

Four out of five mobile phone users have information on their phones that “easily” could be used to steal their identities, according to a new survey sponsored by an Addison, Texas-based endpoint data protection and management solutions provider.

Officials at Credant Technologies say their survey of about 600 London commuters found that: 16 percent have their bank account details saved on their mobile phones; 24 percent their PIN numbers and passwords; 11 percent keep social security and revenue details; and 10 percent store credit card information.
According to Paul Huntingdon, the company’s public sector director and an adviser to governmental and corporate agencies, once you have access to someone’s e-mails, passwords, birthdays, business diary, documents, children’s names and pets, you can easily masquerade as that person, “sending out emails under their name, read all their corporate data and get to see every personal detail of their life.”
“People are ignorant to how easy a professional thief could take over their life and effectively destroy it,” Huntingdon said. “It is therefore imperative that all mobile phone users, even with the most basic handset, password protect and encrypt them.”
That’s advance that largely echoes what TMCnet hears during our frequent interviews with security experts.
The CTO of one company, Airwide Solutions , talked to us at length recently about the possibilities of hackers getting at businesses’ confidential information through smartphones.
That’s a threat which appears to increase with an increasingly mobile workforce and improvements to the mobile Web.
For John Calvin “Cal” Slemp – a managing director with Protiviti, a global business consulting and internal audit firm specializing in risk – smartphones are a good example of a broader issue: How to introduce and leverage a new technology into an environment while maintaining the levels of information security a firm wants in place?
As Slemp told TMCnet in an interview here, good security policies and practices are ones that expect changes, identify them when they occur, and rapidly adapt to their presence.
“Smartphones create another connection to a firm’s IT environment and can be used to access, create, and store information,” Slemp told us. “To make sure that appropriate security controls are defined, it is also helpful to think about the lifecycle of the device from acquisition through to disposal or loss.”
That’s sound advice, especially – as Credant notes in its survey – four out of 10 people do not password-protect their devices.
The company’s survey also found that: 99 percent of people use their phones for some sort of business use – even though 26 percent have been instructed by their employer not to do so; 35 percent receive and send business e-mails; 77 percent keep business names and addresses; 30 percent use them as a business diary; 17 percent download corporate information, such as documents and spreadsheets; and 23 percent store customers’ information.

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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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