by Carlo Longino

Be Doubly Afraid Of Cell Phones Lost In Airports

from the danger!-danger! dept

Earlier this week, a scare story about the supposed dangers of hidden data left on used cell phones did the rounds, spurred on by a self-serving vendor's "research". Another security company has now picked up the ball and run with it, saying that -- gasp! -- 40 percent of phones that turn up in UK airports' lost and found offices aren't reclaimed. "So what," you're probably thinking. But the danger doesn't stop there! Heathrow Airport auctions off items that aren't reclaimed after three months! Which means that your lost mobile phone could end up in a stranger's hands! That means, apparently, that companies should encrypt the data on their mobile phones, so it can't be accessed. Did we mention that the company behind this story just happens to make software that -- and this is totally a coincidence, we're sure -- encrypts data on mobile phones? Somehow, stories like this would be a lot more believable if they didn't originate from vendors who just happen to have a solution to these invented problems for sale.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Myself, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 9:25am

    I think this one is real...

    I see lots of knives and other confiscated items up on eBay all the time, and I'm sure the lost-and-found items go through a similar resale process if nobody claims them.

    I have second-hand knowledge of people cruising the curbs on trash day, pulling hard drives out of discarded computers to paw through their contents. It seems that the same sort of people might be buying lots of unclaimed phones, rummaging through their contents, and then selling the phones at a profit. It's a double-whammy business model.

    Of course there are two ways you'd hear about this: First, if it was widespread, enough victims would put the pieces together and figure out the common link in all their data thefts. Or second, someone with a financial interest in selling a solution whips up a PR piece. Either way, there's a grain of truth here, if you ignore the pay-for-crypto hype.

    So wait, where are the free crypto apps for phones?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    doubledoh, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 9:25am

    beauty of free market

    This is a perfect example of the free market. Problem? Some company comes up with a solution whether it's really a problem or not...then a journalist exposes the scam to those that prefer to stay informed. There is no need for governemnt intervention in this model.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    ebrke, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 9:27am


    I think this is a legitimate problem, with smart phones now holding way more data than just a list of names and phone numbers. Agreed, the company announcing it has an agenda, but I don't think it makes the problem bogus.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 10:05am

    I do believe its a problem. You know that people will put data on their phone that they really shouldn't (I know I do) and if it gets lost, a lot of bad things can happen. What, going to tell me not to put the data on their in the first place? Not going to happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 10:22am

    Not much of a strech

    This seems like an actual concer to me. The encryption firm may have shot itself in the foot by releasing a study that happens to support the solution they sell but that doesn't make the issue any less true. Its a fact that more and more people are carrying their data in portable formats and the identity theives know this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 10:30am

    Re: AC

    You believe it's a problem, you admit you put too much data on your phone, you deserve anything that happens to you... plain and simple...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    ConceptJunkie (profile), Sep 1st, 2006 @ 10:33am

    Re: beauty of free market

    There's no need for government intervention? That's never stopped them before.

    Oh, you mean _excuse_ for government intervention.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    SED TV Guy, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 10:36am

    I lost mine at the airport two weeks ago. Luckily it was found, but I never considered where it could end up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    D, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 10:39am

    Old phones

    I personally have about 5 old phones that I refuse to get rid of precisely because I cannot easily get rid of all the personal information stored on them while in use. All they do is sit in a box in the garage So no, this story doesn't surprise me one bit. I've viewed this as a problem for a long time, and I don't sell encryption software for phones.

    Maybe I'm just paranoid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    mroonie, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 10:53am

    Making a molehill out of a mountain....

    Security issues have been around forever, and yet people are constantly downplaying them. Not only is this problem severe with cell phones but especially with computer hardware that is being sold in the blackmarkets because of the valuable info it contains, or for parts that are being recycled or even donated to local charities and schools. Check out this post that discusses this current issue. Studies have shown that this problem is getting worse and worse and now with more portable devices such as laptops and cell phones enter the equation, i'm sure it will only get worse from here on out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    ®idiculous ©rap, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 10:57am

    it IS a problem

    > Did we mention that the company behind this story
    > just happens to make software

    The cause-and-effect is missing. Just because the company sells cell-security doesn't mean you should discard their product. (Perhaps you should, I don't know.) But it wasn't too long ago that security stalwarts like McAfee and Symantec had to convince people that PC security was important and worth buying. To me the value of protecting data on most any device is obvious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Yakov, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 10:58am


    I was in line at Heathrow on Sunday, and the "cosmetics counter" of confiscated cosmetics could bring in a few grand easily. Forget the phones.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    charlie potatoes, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 11:02am

    old phones...


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    pcguy, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 11:05am

    old phones

    dont leave it in the garage too long..lithium batteries are lethal and they explode.so if you get a leak and from the heat and it seaps.watch out

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 12:07pm

    Re: beauty of free market

    *snicker* actually, most of the time it's the journalists inventing 'sensational' stories that are really nothing in order to try to pump up their ratings - and the problem is people believe these problems are worse than they really are.

    The phones we have at work lock after 30 minutes of non-use. Company policy on them, lol.

    That solves the issue..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    john, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 12:15pm

    The 40% figure isn't surprising

    The airport is an interrnational airport which means that if, say, an american business executive lost his phone. He would go around to where he last saw it and check lost and found, but he would be more worried about catching his flight, so the phone might turn up at Lost and Found after he has departed

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    SimonTek (profile), Sep 1st, 2006 @ 1:14pm

    Last year my phone got stolen, luckily it was a crack head who didn't seem to bright, all i wanted was the sim card, he could keep the phone. Why cause like an idiot, I left some sensitive numbers on it. So what did I do from now one. Sensitive numbers are kept off all digial devices. Keep them on a black book, that I lock up. I don't need the numbers on me at all times, but then again I don't want others to have access to those numbers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    lil'bit, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 2:01pm

    seems to be human nature

    to come up with solutions, whether there is a problem or not. Look at the so-called voting fraud epidemic - can anyone cite actual proof that the motor-voter law opened the door to massive voter fraud? No, studies in Oregon with the Vote-by-Mail initiative proved just the opposite, less fraud commited. Does someone benefit by requiring ID and shifting voters to "provisional" (read - not counted) ballots? Yes, surprise, those least likely to have picture ID = most likely to vote Democrat = Republicans benefit.

    Has anyone bothered to ask a chemist about the latest terrorist threat re:mixing liquids on planes to produce explosives? Someone did and I saw a copy of the article (I would cite the source if I remembered it - try googling) Apparently, one almost has to set up a lab in the airplane bathroom if they want to produce enough explosives - something one thinks an attendent may actually notice (passenger has been in the can for an hour and a half - think there may be a problem?)

    What was with the security crackdown anyway? Now that we have released the information and captured the suspects, we better stop allowing liquids on the plane. WTF?!?

    Bottom line - people are morons (even me!) and if manipulated correctly, will do anything, no matter how stupid or nonsensical or ineffective.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Michael, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 5:09pm

    Sometimes it takes an expert in a field to both expose the problem. Sometimes that expert knows the solution. Sometimes that expert wants to profit off of it. Sometimes it happens in a country that supports the capitalistic ideal. Sometimes it's not a conspiracy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    OWN-the-NWO, Sep 1st, 2006 @ 7:39pm

    coincidence? or by design

    Have you heard of the Hegelian dialect?




    Somthing you deal with every day in life

    you have a problem, you reaction, you create a solution.

    The dirty little secret of corporations or governments, is they've realized they can create the problem to get a reaction from you, and then give you the solution. And along the sheep march with the pied piper.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Cell Phone God, Sep 4th, 2006 @ 1:39pm

    Master reset people!!!

    Almost every phone on the market today has a master reset or master clear function that totally wipes any sensitive data one might have. Comes in very handy when “the man” tries to take your phone for evidence- Problem-Solution cost $0!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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