Do You Know Where Your Phone Is?

source: raitank/Flickr

Friends, it’s 1 am. Or 9 pm.  Or maybe it’s seven in the morning. Whatever the time, the question remains. Do you know where your cell phone is?

Consider this a favor (yes, you will owe me after reading this), for in my life I have seen the worst, and, if I haven’t seen the worst, then know that I’ve read about it.  Which is why, it is my duty to warn you:

If you don’t know where your phone is at this very moment, chances are it’s already fallen into the wrong hands.

Chances are, you were dining in an outdoor café and left your phone on the table in full view (all because you were waiting for a text from Aunt Tallulah regarding what time to pick her up to do the club scene later that night). And, while you were conversing with your dinner partner (Charlie, the guy with the gap in his front teeth and the sweaty palms, whom you’ve been trying to avoid for months, but he finally cornered you into having dinner with him), you didn’t notice that a person of ill repute just “accidentally” bumped into your table and—voila!—your phone is gone.

Here, at the university where I work, there have been a rash of phone thefts.  One even involved a strong-arm robbery (not to be confused with the kind that have weak arms), which sounds pretty scary, if you ask me.

But not as frightening as getting your phone swiped. For phones are no longer just phones. Face it, no one uses a cell phone just for making phone calls anymore.

No. They’re your link to the world. How else could you play “Words with Friends” or check your Facebook status updates, or “like” your cousin Mario’s meatloaf sandwich that he ate for breakfast and uploaded to his Pinterest page?  (Who eats meatloaf for breakfast, anyway?)

Smart phones also are great for shopping on Amazon, checking the value of your stock, buying a latte at Starbucks, checking in for your flight to Schenectady, and reviewing what’s trending on Twitter. All this and more!

Yes! Just think of all the data your little phone has collected on you–the sites you visit, your checking account info, and even all your passwords. Then ask yourself, are you sure you want to leave it out in full view, in all it’s naked glory, simply because you’re expecting a text from Aunt Tallulah or, more likely, from that guy you met at the bar last week, who still hasn’t connected with you, as promised? Sheesh.

Lucky for you, the Information Security Officer at the university where I work, asked some of her law enforcement contacts (from the local police, FBI and security professionals) why pilfered phones would be of any use, considering new service cannot be started on a phone, once it’s been reported as stolen.

Their answers were surprising. Or not, depending on how techno savvy and security minded you are.  Here’s what they said:

In fact, if you don’t already have a password on your phone, hopefully this will help motivate you:

  • Smart phones often have the credentials for the owner’s email “in the cloud.”  This will often allow a password reset for other services, such as other email systems, social sites like Facebook, perhaps even banking and financial.  Even if the financial credentials aren’t in the phone, there’s usually enough info on the social media accounts to get through the password reset secret questions. Even without those, there’s enough info in the phone to facilitate identity theft.

  • The reason for the violent high-risk thefts of phones, which the victims will probably soon deactivate, is to meet the following short-term criminal goals for supply of black market phones: drug deals, terrorist communication, and cyberhacking.

  • Don’t look at it as a phone.  Think of the information we now store and the account info we enter to allow instant purchase. If I had someone’s phone, I could data mine their identity, habits, home and more.

So, what are you waiting for? Put a password on your phone already!  Protect your information and the information of others you have stored on it.

And, if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for cousin Mario! After all, he doesn’t want his contact info exposed to the miscreants of society any more than you do. Ditto for Aunt Tallulah.

Enough said. You’re welcome, and don’t forget. You now owe me one.

Of course, you can make it up to me by commenting below. ;)