Lose Your Smartphone, Lose Your Identity

Ever left a café, bus, or other public place, and left your cellphone behind? If you're lucky, an honest person finds it and eventually gets it back to you. But if you're not lucky…

In the old days, you were out whatever it cost to replace the phone. But if you have a smartphone, you could be out considerably more. The unscrupulous person who won't try to return the phone to you might also find some profit in your private information.

Recent research by two British companies, Churchill Home Insurance and Garlik, suggest that smartphone users are notoriously lax about how they protect their data. More than half don't bother to change banking passwords after their phone disappears. Nearly 40 percent don't even take the simple precaution of password-protecting their phones.

Think for a moment about what criminals could get if your unprotected smartphone fell into their hands. First, they would have access to all of your email, and would be able to send out mail in your name. The photographs on the phone would most likely tell them what you, and members of your family, look like. If you access your bank account with your phone, so can they. And guess what: They're not going to make a deposit.

The first thing you need to do is password-protect your phone. Use a strong password — one that's at least six characters long, and that you can remember but that no one else is likely to guess. And be warned: Android's pattern lock feature isn't as secure as a real password.

If you use the phone for something that's really sensitive, like banking, don't let the phone or the app remember the password. Enter it manually every time.

And set up your phone so that you wipe away its data remotely should it disappear. Android users can do this with Trend Micro's Mobile Security; you can buy this program separately or get it as part of the Titanium Maximum Security.

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