Lost property: 40% of mobile devices left at airports will never be reclaimed

October 2006 Information Security

A survey into ‘Mobile device security at airports’ shows the Brits are lackadaisical – when it comes to losing mobile devices compared to many of their counterparts around the globe.

British travellers will be returning from their vacations this season, without their mobile phone or laptop because they lost it while travelling at a busy airport. But they do not care, because according to the findings of a survey released in August by Pointsec Mobile Technologies between 40-50% of people cannot be bothered trekking to the lost property office of a hectic airport to reclaim their mobile phone, laptop or PDA - they would prefer to claim from their insurance company or let their company provide them with a new upgraded version and enjoy their trip instead. However, there is a security risk attached to not claiming your mobile device. After three months they are auctioned by the airport and with one in four having no security on them (according to the lost property office) - they could become a potential security risk to the owner or their company!

This is not the case when it came to their European counterparts who were all keen to collect their laptops. However, they were in many cases also pretty carefree when it came to trying to trace their mobile phones.

In Sweden, 100% of laptops were reclaimed, except at their main airport at Arlanda where 75% were claimed. However, people in Sweden were far more lax about reclaiming their mobile phone with 60% on average being collected with just 30% collected at Arlanda airport.

The Norwegians were carefree when it came to trying to retrieve their mobile phones at Oslo's main airport with a tiny minority of just 10% going to collect their phones from the lost property office. However, they were far more vigilant when it came to reclaiming their laptops with 95% being reclaimed.

The Australians were also pretty keen to reclaim their laptops with an almost 100% reclaim rate in the four airports which were surveyed. But bizarrely in Brisbane, of the mobile phones that are handed in every week, absolutely none have been reclaimed.

It comes as no surprise that in Finland, the land of the mobile phone, just over half of people bothered to reclaim their mobile phone but 91% reclaimed their laptops.

One in four have no security on them

The survey into 'Mobile device security at airports' found that of the mobile devices that were handed into the lost property office in airports around the UK, one in four mobile phones or laptops had absolutely no security on them, with the staff being able to switch them on and start them up.

Peter Larsson, CEO for Pointsec, says: "Often people do not realise how valuable their information can be to others such as hackers, competitors or thieves. Most people keep personal and customer details on their mobile devices and in our experience it is when these contact details go missing that people and their companies really begin to worry."

Heathrow Airport alone has around five laptops and 10 mobile phones handed in every day with just 60% being reclaimed, the rest go to local auction houses after three months. This means that Heathrow Airport auctions around 730 lost laptops every year and 1460 mobile phones.

When Pointsec's researcher phoned the lost property office at London's Heathrow Airport they said that there had been a dramatic increase in the number of lost laptops since BAA had stepped up security. People now have to take their laptop out of their bags and turn them on to ensure they are not a security risk. It is then that people seem to leave their laptop behind in the security area of the departure lounge.

Pointsec's advice to people who travel with mobile devices is that if they are not secured with encryption or strong passwords and they have sensitive information that could be used by someone, you must make the effort to reclaim them. For people who encrypt their mobile device they need only worry about the cost of the lost device and not the data residing on it because once encrypted no one can get at the information.

For details contact Pointsec Mobile Technologies, www.pointsec.com

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