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October 18, 2012

Mobile devices still not being protected: Sophos

Lost mobile devices contain no security, putting individuals and businesses at risk

By Steve Evans

Nearly half of all lost mobile devices contain no security whatsoever, according to new research from Sophos.

The company says it conducted a study of mobile security habits and discovered some alarming results. According to its research 42% of devices lost or left in an unsecure place had no "active" security measures.

Of those devices, one in five contained access to work email accounts, meaning sensitive and confidential information could be exposed. Furthermore a similar number contained sensitive personal information, which according to Sophos included National Insurance numbers, addresses and dates or birth.

A smaller number of lost mobile devices, around 10%, contain credit card information.

A significant number (35%) were logged into social networks accounts via apps or the web browser, meaning if the device falls into the wrong hands the user could be exposed.

"The widespread lack of basic security measures in place on mobile devices is very severe and shows a clear lack of awareness around data security among the general public," said James Lyne, director of technology strategy at Sophos.

"Most concerning for businesses is that this lack of awareness will inevitably seep into the corporate environment. Indeed, the research already shows that corporate email – on lost and potentially unsecured devices – opens up a potential security hole in the infrastructure. This lack of precaution and awareness risks putting businesses in the firing line when it comes to complying with data privacy legislation and protecting sensitive information," he added.

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The survey also threw up some interesting stats about who protects their phone. According to Sophos, men are more likely to lose a device than women but are also more likely to have some sort of security in place on their device.

People aged between 16 and 24 were four times more likely to lose an electronic device compared to adults aged between 55 and 64. However the younger generation is more likely to have security installed on devices, Sophos said.

"The fact that the younger generation is more likely to have enabled security is a promising sign that people are beginning to realise the need to protect data held on electronic devices. That said, those with protection are still too low and as we begin to rely on and invest more in our electronic devices, there needs to be a shift across the board in the attitude and education surrounding mobile, laptop and tablet security," said Lyne.

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