What Happens to Missing Smartphones? Symantec Dishes the Dirt

By Jason Fitzpatrick on March 14th, 2012

What exactly happens to smartphones separated from their owners? To find out, Symantec “lost” 50 smart phones around New York City and remotely tracked them. Read on to see what happened to the phones.

Fifty phones were loaded with fake personal and corporate information, then left in public locations around New York City. Using remote software, Symantec researchers then tracked what exactly happened to the phones after they were released into the wild. Here are some of the stats from their white paper:

72% of the people who found a smartphone looked at the photos on the phone

43% opened banking/financial applications on the phone

57% looked at a list of saved logins/passwords

50% of the phones were returned

It’s safe to assume that someone who finds a phone will turn the phone on (whether they intend to return it or not) if for no other reason than to access the phone book to attempt to call the owner. What’s unsettling about their findings is that the finders, even among the benevolent ones that attempted to return the phones, combed through personal data on the phone accessing everything from photos to passwords to corporate data.

So what do the study authors recommend? While most of their recommendations are geared towards corporate users, it’s still wise to heed their suggestion to use a lock screen and have some sort of system in place (in advance!) for dealing with a lost phone (such as installing remote wipe software Android Lost or learning how to use the iPhone’s Remote Wipe feature). Hit up the link below to read the entire study.

The Symantec Smartphone Honey Stick Project


Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/14/12
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