Thousands of mobile devices set to go missing over the holidays

According to phone interviews with the lost property offices of 15 UK airports – including London Heathrow and Luton – more than 5100 mobile phones and 3844 laptops have been left behind so far this year, the bulk of which have not been claimed.

And, says Credant Technologies, which sponsored the survey, these numbers will rise significantly during the current holiday period, with travel agent groups predicting that as many as four million people will have been travelling this Christmas and New Year.

The data protection specialist says that standard procedures at airports are to sell lost mobile phones and laptops at auction, or donate them to charity, if they are unclaimed.

But, says Credant, the problem here is that the portable devices could still contain information that could be available for the new owner.

And with identity theft from mobile phones and other lost devices at an all-time high, users should really take special care during the holiday period when travelling.

A spokesperson for Luton Airport  is quoted as saying that the most common place devices are forgotten is at the security check, as it is usually a pressured environment with numerous distractions.

Often, says the airport, once the travellers have boarded the plane and left the country it is just too expensive to return for the device, which in most instances will be covered by insurance, resulting in the majority going unclaimed.

But, says Sean Glynn, Credant's vice president, the value of the device is the last issue that the company owning the mobile unit should worry about.

"What is much more concerning are the copious volumes of sensitive data these devices contain, which is often unsecured and easily accessed", he said, adding that many portable devices often do not even have a password on them to protect the unit's data.

"This means that a malicious third party can have easy access to the corporate network, email accounts and all the files stored on the device including the contact lists," he explained.

In view of these issues, Glynn says that users should always check that they have all their mobile devices with them as they leave each section of the airport.

Users should also, he says, protect their mobile device with a strong password consisting of words and numbers, as well as consider using an encryption system for the data on the device.

The Credant vice president went on to say that users should not automatically complete online credentials, such as corporate network log in details, meaning that if a user and their device should become separated, it cannot operate without the user.

Users should also back up their data on the device, and regularly delete any emails or text messages that have been read and are not needed any more.

Finally, Glynn recommended that users include their name and contact details in the device so that, if it should be lost, it can easily be returned to them.

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