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Security experts issue warning to smartphone users

Wednesday, October 8th 2014 by Hannah Langston

Mobile phone users are failing to adequately protect their devices, according to an independent security analyst.

Graham Cluley (pictured), an independent security analyst, said he was concerned about the outcome of a survey of black cab drivers, showing around half of phones left in cabs were not locked.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, Mr Cluley said, “I think there is always more that can be done to educate users about how to protect their smartphones. There is good information on sites like Get Safe Online, but the typical user still fails to automatically lock their phone with a simple PIN, let alone better protection.

“Hopefully people are learning by past mistakes, and are ensuring that tools like ‘find my iPhone’ and ‘activation lock’ are turned on. It would also be great to believe that users would move from four digit PINs to proper long passwords for their smartphones – but I think I might be dreaming.”

Mr Cluley’s comments come after the survey of 300 black cab drivers by security firm Eset found that round 190,000 mobiles were left in taxis, half of which were not locked.

Eset's security specialist Mark James, told us: “This shouldn’t be a discussion that focuses on how many phones are forgotten or lost in London cabbies but about the security implications of what happens to your data when you lose it and it’s not protected and falls into the wrong hands.

“Eset’s research shows that 50% of peoples phones are not locked allowing anyone to read their phone and steal their credentials or worse, steal their IDs.”

Mr James added: “Thanks to the honesty of our London cabbies the majority of these are reunited with their owners because 14% of cabbies found them and handed them back, 25% hand them to the police, 61% wait for the phone to ring and then get them back to their owners. Of the 25% that were handed into the police a subset of these were probably handed into TFL.”

Transport For London (TFL) did cast doubt on the number of phones being “lost”, as its records of the number of phones left on its services, including buses, tubes, overground trains, coaches and black cabs totalled just 28,819 between 2013 and 2014.

Commenting on Eset’s research, TfL lost property manager Paul Cowan said: “This figure is inaccurate and we do not recognise it. During 2013/14 there was a total of 28,819 mobile phones found on our network which includes black cabs.”

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