When you leave your home, what’s the last thing you do? If you’re like most people, you probably lock your doors behind you. You don’t want anyone to come inside and take your things, after all. You probably also lock your car, and keep your wallet or purse within sight at all times to prevent someone from walking off with it.
But for all of the precautions you take to protect your possessions and your money each day, there’s a good chance that you aren’t securing the one item that, should it fall into the wrong hands, could actually do more harm to your finances, your reputation and even your employer than anything else: your mobile device.
According to a recent survey, almost half of all smartphone users reported that they do not lock their phones when not in use. Of those who do employ locking technology, the vast majority does not use a strong password — in another study of more than 3.4 million passwords, a full 10 percent of users used “1234” as the secret code to protect their phones or tablets.
Those who don’t lock their phones claim that doing so is cumbersome, or they simply aren’t worried about unauthorized access to their devices.Many people report that they regularly back up their device data, so should something go awry they won’t lose anything; however, of all the security measures that one can take to protect their phones and the data contained, locking is one of the most effective.
Your Data Is Valuable
You might think that the data on your phone isn’t valuable to anyone else. After all, why would someone want the snapshots of you and your friends at last weekend’s barbecue, or the text from your spouse saying that he’ll pick up milk?Most phones and devices are a treasure trove of data for criminals. You might think that you don’t have anything to hide, but you don’t need to have lewd texts messages or embarrassing photos on your phone for a loss or theft to be devastating.
Chances are you stay logged in to your social media accounts on your phone, use it to check your bank balance or log in to your employer’s network to check email or perform other tasks. If your phone is lost or stolen, and it’s not protected by a password or other locking mechanism, all of that data is ripe for the picking. A savvy criminal with your log-in credentials can easily access your employer’s network and wreak havoc — while also stealing your personal and financial data.
Locks of the Future
Because so many organizations are shifting to a bring-your-own-device model, or supplying mobile devices to employees, there is a renewed focus on device lock capabilities as part of internet security and risk management protocols. Many BYOD-friendly companies are employing mobile device management (MDM) strategies that incorporate remote locking capabilities to protect devices that have been lost or stolen.
These MDM programs allow security personnel to lock a device, no matter where it is, with a touch of a button; many also remotely wipe the device’s data, rendering it useless to criminals.
However, because even individuals using their own devices for personal purposes are vulnerable, device manufacturers are developing new locking technologies that make security more convenient and effective. Users can already install accessories or applications that use biometric factors to secure their devices, but some experts predict that within the next few years, all devices will be equipped with biometric identification technology that will incorporate fingerprint or voice recognition in order to unlock the device.
Biometric identifiers may only be part of the puzzle, as some security experts are pushing for two-factor authentication protocols on devices, especially as mobile devices become more sophisticated and we start to use them for more sensitive and personal transactions. But given that passwords can be easily guessed or hacked, adding another means of locking the phone provides an additional layer of security.
Of course, the changes in mobile security also require a change in mindset. Survey results indicate that nearly a third of those who have lost their phones still do not lock them, indicating that mobile security is still not a priority for many users. In other words, many people are still leaving the front door wide open — but new technology will help close and lock it.
About the Author:
Christopher Budd is a seasoned veteran in the areas of online security, privacy and communications. Combining a full career in technical engineering with PR and marketing, Christopher has worked to bridge the gap between “geekspeak” and plain English, to make awful news just bad and help people realistically understand threats so they can protect themselves online. Christopher is a 10-year veteran of Microsoft’s Security Response Center, has worked as an independent consultant and now works for Trend Micro.