If you carry around photos taken from behind closed doors, at least put them behind a passcode on your mobile phone.
Although 25 percent of mobile-phone users keep dirty photos on their devices, only two-thirds protect their devices with PIN, password or pattern lock, two new studies show.
A survey by security firm McAfee found that in addition to the quarter of mobile- device users who keep such private pictures, 15 percent also use phones to store login details, including passwords. In spite of the obvious risks and consequences associated with losing a device that contains such sensitive information — not to mention email and phone-book access — a second study, by security company AVG Technologies, found that one-third of consumers fail keep their devices locked up.
"Consumers seem largely unconcerned about keeping data on their mobile devices safe," McAfee said in a statement. "For example, only one in five respondents have backed up the data on their phone and tablet in case it’s stolen … Most mobile device users remain unaware of potential breaches to their privacy as smartphones and tablet devices become increasingly attractive to cybercrminals."
Smartphone owners increasingly rely on their devices to store sensitive and critical information, much like they use personal computers. Yet, many consumers don't appear to take mobile security nearly as seriously as they do for their desktop. Despite the greater likelihood of misplacing, losing or having a smartphone stolen, 70 percent of owners aren't aware of features that remotely "wipe" data from smartphones that fall into the wrong hands, an AVG Technologies survey found.
“This survey has clearly demonstrated that there is confusion in the minds of consumers about what is and isn’t safe or sensible to do with a mobile device,” JR Smith, AVG's CEO, said in a statement.
Even those who do elect to put a passcode on their devices make security mistakes. McAfee found that 49 percent of smartphone users and 61 percent of tablet users have shared their passcode with someone else. [See also: Another Hack Allows Access to Locked iPhones ]
"Consumers [appear to] value the data on their phone more than that on their tablet," the McAfee statement said.
No matter how much or how little you store on your mobile device: put a password on it. In addition to protecting your personal data, passwords can act as a theft deterrent and prevent unauthorized use that could lead to a very expensive phone bill. Also look into what remote data-wipe and lockout options are available. Many providers offer these services for free via pre-installed or downloable apps such as Apple's Find My Phone app for iPhones.
As technology continues to blur the line between computer and phone, laptop and mobile device, it's important that consumer attitudes keep up. Given a smartphone's slight weight and size, it's easy to take for granted how much it holds in terms of data, photos and synchronized accounts. It's important to take note of the added risk — your phone goes everywhere you do — and protect mobile devices with as much vigilance as you do with your home computer.