According to fascinating research, loss of one's smartphone not only represents an immediate disconnection from one's online contacts but is also a potential privacy and security risk should the lost phone wend its way into the hands of a malicious third party.
The same anxieties apply equally to lost or stolen laptops, tablet computers and other digital devices.
"The valuable data assets on a stolen smartphone may include personal and business contacts, private pictures and videos, meeting and lecture notes and the like, banking details, utility statements, company spreadsheets and much more. All such assets are potentially sensitive to abuse by third parties," said Zhiling Tu from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
The value of lost hardware might be negligible when compared to the loss of sensitive or proprietary data, added co-author Yufei Yuan from McMaster University.
During the study, they found that a few active and security-conscious users were aware of countermeasures.
But many users were either not aware of "time bomb" data deletion settings and remote device locks and such or were simply in denial of the risk of their losing their phone.
"More troubling is that while there are various countermeasures that can be used to cope with mobile device loss and theft, users are either unaware of their existence or unwilling to use them," Tu noted.
Many companies now have a BYOD (bring-your-own-device) policy rather than dispensing a standard corporate device to all employees as there are additional security issues that arise from their being centralized control of the data on a given device, researchers informed.
An awareness campaign might be needed to encourage general users to make their devices more secure, concluded the paper that appeared in the International Journal of Mobile Communications.