NQ Mobile's latest survey takes a fresh look at how consumers are safeguarding their devices and the valuable data they hold, as well as what specifically they feel is most important to protect – and who they most want to protect it from. The results show that consumers understand the problems they face if their device or data is lost, however there remains a disconnect in their behavior to prevent that from happening.
Learning lessons on locking devices
Only 52% of consumers reported requiring a passcode or other authentication method to access their device; however, younger consumers are more likely to take this basic step. 64% of respondents aged 18 to 34 use some method of device locking, as opposed to only 30% aged 55 and up.
According to the survey, losing an unlocked phone is a powerful impetus for changing behavior. 25% of survey respondents reported either losing their device or having one stolen in the past, and of these devices, 40% were unprotected. Upon getting a new phone, 69% of those who lost unlocked phones implemented a measure of access protection. But surprisingly, there remains 31% who haven't learned from their previous mistake and opt to keep their device open to anyone who may pick it up in the future.
What (and who) are you afraid of?
Consumers recognize the perils of losing their smartphones, and some are taking precautions should that occur. While 48% admitted they'd be "in big trouble" should they lose their device, 44% were more certain that their valuable data is adequately backed up.
When asked about what they would be most frightened about if they lost their device, rather surprisingly, most smartphone owners reported losing their saved contacts as the scariest thought. In order of concern, this ranked above having an intruder read their emails or texts (2nd), having an unauthorized person post to their social networking accounts (3rd) and even having their photos or videos posted publicly (4th).
When it comes to who might find a lost device, most preferred it be their significant other, even if it meant having access to everything on it. This was followed in order by a friend, sibling, parent, child, colleague and lastly, a stranger. In fact, respondents were unexpectedly confident that they had nothing to hide, with 67% saying they'd have no problem having a boss or manager go through the contents of their device vs. 14% who felt that might jeopardize their career prospects.
Are you SURE you don't have anything to hide?
Regardless of whether or not it's job-loss worthy, the majority (69%) of consumers admit they have some sort of personal information on their device. This percentage was even higher for the younger age groups. 89% of respondents aged 18 to 34 reported having something private on their smartphone, including passwords for online log-ins such as bank and social networking accounts (59% vs. 37% overall), personal financial information (45% vs. 32% overall), risque photos or videos (38% vs. 20% overall), lewd text messages or emails (39% vs. 19% overall) and confidential work-related items (24% vs. 17% overall).
According to the survey, smartphone owners are aware of the dangers of having sensitive information from their device fall into unauthorized hands, with over half of the survey respondents admitting that either they or someone they know have gotten in trouble as a result of something on their phone. Only 11% admitted this "someone" was themselves. While most of the trouble involves someone discovering inappropriate pictures or messages, other results included breach of bank accounts, loss of business deals, getting fired and even trouble with law enforcement.
For those who want to keep their mobile devices private and prevent malicious intrusions, NQ Mobile offers a few simple tips.
Lock It Up. Leaving your smartphone unlocked leaves your sensitive information vulnerable to snoopers and thieves. Using the auto-lock capabilities of your device is one of the simplest steps you can take to protect yourself. Take it one step further by setting a short timer. Even if you think it's inconvenient, it's nowhere near as inconvenient as what can happen if you leave your data exposed.
Share Wisely. Social networking has broadened the definition of "friends" and we are now in the habit of sharing intimate details of our lives with veritable strangers. Don't make it easy for a hacker to gather enough personal information to get access to bank accounts and more. Just like in real life, be careful about what information you share with which social connections. Additionally, remember that once something is posted, it's almost impossible to take it back. What may seem fun in the moment can appear to be a major indiscretion later – and can cost you big in the long run.
Arm Your Device. You wouldn't run your laptop without anti-virus software or with an outdated operating system. The same sorts of risks jeopardize your mobile device and warrant the same level of precaution. Keep your device tuned up with the most recent firmware from your carrier. Lastly, install reputable security apps that can prevent your private data from getting out and protect against malicious intrusions that may try to get in without your knowledge.