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Data on millions of mobile phones poses ID theft threat

Credant Technologies : 18 March, 2009  (Company News)
Data stored on mobile phones is making 4.2 million Britons vulnerable to ID theft.
According to the findings of a survey by endpoint data protection security experts, Credant Technologies, 80 percent of phone users store information on their phones that could easily be used to steal their identities.

The research surveyed 600 commuters at London railway stations about their mobile phones, typical usage and the types of sensitive information stored on them. The results were alarming:

• 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 inland revenue details

• 10 percent store credit card information

• 40 percent naively fail to protect their devices with a password.

Further investigation reveals the information stored is not restricted to personal details as most users also use their personal devices for business use:

• 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 emails

• 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

• 23 percent store customers information.

When you consider that four out of 10 people are not password protecting their devices, it makes many millions of users seriously exposed to the trappings of mobile phone criminals and opportunists who can use this information to clone someone's personal, or even corporate, life.

According to Paul Huntingdon - Public Sector Director at Credant Technologies and adviser to many Government departments and large corporations, "Once you have access to someone's emails, 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. It is therefore imperative that all mobile phone users, even with the most basic handset, password protect and encrypt them."

Steve Gold, Telecoms journalist and IT expert added "People can be destroyed when their phone gets into the wrong hands - for example blackmail, abuse and threats, just by leaving it accessible without password protection. Imagine how easy it would be to assume or destroy the life of a colleague just by stealing their phone - if it was the company chairman's phone you could send emails from him announcing his resignation - a practical joke with serious consequences."

The figure of 4.2 million UK mobile phone users open to identity theft was extrapolated from figures obtained from the Department for Transport which showed there are 70 million phone users in the UK and according to the Credant Technologies survey, 40 percent are not password protected, this figure was times by the average of people leaving sensitive details on their mobile phones which is: 15 percent who store highly sensitive data, such as bank account details, 24 percent store PIN numbers and passwords, 11 percent store social security details and 10% store credit card information which comes out at 15.25 percent of phone users who are leaving highly sensitive data on their phones that could be used to steal their identity. Ergo 40 percent x 15 percent x 70 million = 4.2 million phones
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