Ever since mobile phones became an essential tool for businesspeople, their theft and resale has posed a security problem for companies. The latest smart phones are not only costly, they can also contain crucial data relating to the company and the personnel working there.
Other than taking the obvious security steps such as not leaving a phone on the table or checking pockets for the mobile phone on exiting taxi [a common way to lose a phone], there a number of technical actions that can be taken:
1. Ensure that the phone has a security PIN plus a locked SIM
2. Install tracking software that can be activated remotely should the phone go missing
3. Have all data backed up to the cloud
4. Where possible, have critical data encrypted
Once one of your personnel discovers that a mobile phone has been stolen or gone missing, have your IT people start to track the phone using the installed software. Alert the telecom provider so that the phone can be deactivated and prevented from making costly calls or downloads – often the telecom provider can locate the phone quicker. If you suspect that the phone has been stolen, make a Police report so that they can identify the thief with the help of the tracking process.
It should be noted that to counter thefts of mobile phones and their reuse / sale, some telecom providers have now created a registry of reported missing or stolen phones via the serial number or IMEI embedded in the phone. Therefore, should a missing or stolen mobile phone be placed on such a register, a telecom provider checking this phone before signing up a new client would flag this problem.
This cooperation between telecom providers in the USA has made it much harder, if not impossible, to reactivate a flagged phone. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad: the database only applies to the USA and other countries are slow on implementing a similar program.
This means that for those phone owners living outside the USA, there is little protection with recovering or cancelling their missing phones. And savvy iPhone thieves have realized that the way to get around these restrictions is by selling phones overseas.
There is already a steady trade of second hand mobile phones being traded in when users want a new phone. These old phones may then be reconditioned and shipped overseas where customers will buy them at a discounted price. Some dishonest players use these channels to sell found or stolen phones for instant cash.
Whether the phone was lost by accident or stolen by a thief, the process of re-sale and use by a third party exposes the data on your missing or stolen mobile phone to being downloaded and used as part of an identity theft attack. A locked and secure mobile phone is essential – make sure you have a six figure PIN installed.
This is a threat that will only increase as we store more and more data on our mobile phones. To give some idea on the scale of the problem today; take note that in the USA it is estimated that the loss and theft of mobile phones cost consumers over $30 billion in 2012, while around 110 smartphones are said to be lost or stolen each minute in the USA.
Now, where did I put my phone……..
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