Is Your Smartphone on a Thief’s Hit List?

smartphone theft 2014

We use smartphones to make our lives easier to manage. From booking dinner reservations, getting driving directions or shopping online, today’s generation of smartphones have applications for just about everything. It’s like having a personal assistant available on-call 24/7. The keyword here is personal – our smartphones contain a lot of personal information. But what happens to that data if your smartphone is lost or stolen? Think it can’t happen to you? Like having good car insurance, to protect yourself, you must take steps before something bad happens.

Smartphone thefts are increasing at an alarming rate. Check out these facts about smartphones from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC):

• The number of stolen phones in New York City climbed 40% in one year.
• It accounts for one of every two robberies in San Francisco.
• Nationwide, stolen smart phones now account for 33% of all robberies.

According to a new survey from Consumer Reports:

U.S. smartphone survey statistics

• 3.1 million phones stolen in 2013
• 1.6 million phones stolen in 2012
• 1.4 million phones lost and never recovered in 2013
• 36 percent of respondents set a screen lock with a 4-digit pin
• 29 percent backed up their smartphone data to a computer or the cloud
• 22 percent installed software that could locate a lost or stolen phone.
• 14 percent installed an antivirus app
• 8 percent installed software that can erase the phone’s contents
• 34 percent had no precautions

Apple, AT&T, Google, HTC, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon have already signed on to participate in a voluntary program to integrate “kill switch” technology. As of July 2015, new smartphones will come preloaded with (or offer the option to download) the “kill switch” capability, which can remotely disable a stolen smartphone.

Keypoints of “kill switch” technology:

• Users will be able to remotely delete all personal data— emails, contacts, photos.
• Smartphone will be inoperable without your password.
• In accordance with the FCC, however, 911 emergency communications and pre-programmed emergency numbers will remain accessible.
• Prevents reactivation via unauthorized factory reset attempts.
• Upon return to the authorized owner, the smartphone’s previous settings and data will be restored “to the extent feasible”—reminder, you did back up your phone to a computer, USB drive or the cloud, right?

BEFORE your smartphone is lost or stolen:

1. Lock It. Set a hard-to-guess, strong password and change it regularly. Also, include a timeout requiring authentication after a period of inactivity.
2. Add Apps. There are several apps available that will remotely track, lock and/or erase your phone’s data if it’s lost or stolen.
3. Save your important stuff. Backup information to a flash drive, computer, or cloud service.
4. Enable encryption. Enabling encryption is one of the best ways to safeguard stored information to prevent unauthorized access.

With the increase in smartphone thefts, you want to be sure you’re doing all you can to keep your personal information safe. Taking these steps will go a long way to giving you peace of mind. It just makes good sense – like having your car insurance up to date.

Do you think kill-switch technology will cut down smartphone theft? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Is Your Smartphone on a Thief’s Hit List?
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Smartphone thefts are increasing at an alarming rate. Nationwide, stolen smart phones now account for 33% of all robberies. Are you next?