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Cell Phone Thefts May Not Be About Phones

21 Oct

by Ken Davidson

It appears that organized rings of criminals are perpetrating armed robberies for cell phones in northwest Indiana. First, we had the 5 Hessville armed robberies which appear to be gang related. At that time, Chief Brian Miller suggested there were similar robberies in East Chicago and Merrillville. Now an armed robbery in Schererville and reports of one in Dyer are causing great concern. According to a report issues by computer security giant Symantec, up to 50% of smart phones are lost or stolen in some major cities. The number is rising rapidly. The real question is why are these thefts on the rise and the answer may be personal information.

While there is a tremendous danger involved in the vicious armed robberies, the thefts may not be about the phones at all. Symantec reports that users are storing more data on their portable devices and are protecting it less. Bank accounts, credit cards, addresses and passwords and other personal information call all be retrieved by the savvy criminal after stealing a cell phone.

“If this was a test, mobile consumers would be failing,” said Marian Merritt, Internet Safety Advocate, Symantec. “While consumers are protecting their computers, there is a general lack of awareness to safeguard their smartphones and tablets. It’s as if they have alarm systems for their homes, but they’re leaving their cars unlocked with the windows wide open.”

Those perpetrating the robberies may not be computer geniuses but a nationwide spike in thefts of electronic devices indicates that there is a thriving market for stolen devices. You can bet the street gangs have gotten into this lucrative market and are selling phones internationally.

Experts advise using security software such as Symantec’s Norton Mobile Security 3.0 The Software allows you to erase your data remotely if your portable device is lost or stolen.

Symantec also suggests additional security tips for a smartphone or tablet:

General Security Principles for PDAs and Smartphones
• PDAs and Smartphones must be password protected, preferably with a strong password (eight digits,
alpha-numeric)
• Devices must not be left unattended (while charging, for instance) – unless secured in a locked device or
room, or with an appropriate alarm6
• The wireless port on PDAs and smartphones must be disabled (to prevent transmission of confidential
data to unauthorized individuals)
• Appropriate anti-malware software must be installed and kept up to date
• Device operating systems must have the latest patches installed (which means keeping in touch with
your supplier’s Web site(s), as automatic updating is not yet a big feature of PDA and smartphone
operating system support)
• Any confidential (including corporate) information stored on a device must be encrypted, perhaps stored
in an encrypted database
• Back up regularly – by synchronizing the device with a linked computer

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