Are Our Mobile Devices Safe At All?

Are Our Mobile Devices Safe At All?

After a string of high-profile hackings, including Apple, Jeep, and Burger King, PSFK and Intel look at how to protect your phone and tablet.

Nestor Bailly, PSFK
  • 24 february 2013

If you’re like most people, then you’ve developed more than a passing crush on your mobile device. This deep emotional connection stems from the collection of photos, texts and other memories, not to mention it being the lifeline to your lifestyle-affirming social networks. What would you do if you lost it, or even worse, you got hacked? The first thing most of us would do is send a mass email to all of our contacts apologizing profusely for all the spam they’re about to get, but what if you could avoid that dilemma (and getting hacked) in the first place?

Below are a few helpful tips that will help your mobile devices stay secure:

Don’t have a mobile password? Might as well just hand it over to the next nefarious stranger you meet.

Look at you, flipping out your expensive gadget on the subway, you must think you’re pretty fancy, huh? Well guess what, it’s working: Everyone around you is jealous, and sees that you don’t have a screen lock password. That just makes it easier for someone to nab it from your soft, moisturized hands. You don’t want to make your five-hour wait outside in the rain for the new phone all for naught, do you?

  • Don’t be one of the 67 million smartphone users who don’t use any type of password protection. And it’s not hard, bro. Just make a different password for each device you have, and make them complicated, like all of your past relationships. And since you’re already thinking it, no, your birth date won’t cut it.
  • Face it: if every reporter at the NY Times can have their passwords hacked, so can you. A six character, letter-only password takes just 10 minutes for a hacker to crack, but a six character password that’s a mix of upper/lowercase letters + a number and symbol takes 18 days to crack. Even better? A nine-character password with a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols– those take 44,530 YEARS to crack. (source)
  • Stay Secure: Check your password right now- how long would it take to hack?


If you lose your phone without tracking software, you better hope your ‘Call Me Maybe’ ringtone is set on loud.

You’re so attached to your phone it’s not enough for it to be in your pocket or in your purse- you have to have it in plain sight at all times! You insisted on setting it on the table at dinner last night, but in your haste to leave, you left it sitting there still waiting for dessert. One too many cocktails before the appetizers and you’ve lost your phone again. Or did you? Perhaps it was stolen, and someone is now emailing all those saved sexting photos to your mom. Or, heaven forbid, using your Starbucks app to redeem all those points for free coffee. Oh the humanity!

  • Listen baby, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not hard to install tracking software like McAfee’s that will show you where your phone is when you’ve lost it. The software can even remotely backup your data.
  •  You can even follow what NY Times reporter David Pogue did when his phone was stolen– since he already had tracking software on his phone, he was able to track its exact location…. and tweet it to his 1.4 million Twitter followers.

  • Not everyone who finds your phone will be a good Samaritan– a recent study by Symantec found that 89% of ‘finders’ look at personal information, and 43% try to access banking information. The cost of losing your phone is higher than you think- the average cost to replace a phone (in time and money!) is $668.24.
  • Extra smart tips you can use in trivia: Every 3.5 seconds, someone in the US loses their phone. Not surprisingly, 67% of phones reportedly go missing between 9pm and 2am. And avoid a coffee shop in Philadelphia at all cost– coffee shops are the #1 spot to misplace a phone, and Philadelphians report the highest loss rate among US cities! (source)
  • Stay Secure: If you don’t have a phone tracker, find one now.



Your friend’s band could only book a rooftop to play on, but that’s cool, right? Not so much when you drop your phone off the edge while trying to hit on the singer…. by showing her a picture of your cat on Facebook.

Oh, bummer, dude. Maybe you could duct tape it back together. No? What, DIY artisanal phone repair isn’t in anymore? And wait a minute, isn’t the singer your friend’s sister?

  • You should have used a cloud-based backup system that automatically saves data in the magical nerd cubefarm in the sky. You do know what cloud computing, is, right? It’s filled with all kinds of space-age tubes and rainbows. Plus, we know you already use the cloud – you were using Facebook earlier, right? Believe it or not, that’s a cloud based system.
  • 58% of current smartphone users have never backed up their devices- it’s like they’re asking to lose all of their data! (source)
  • Stay Secure: Set up a data backup system now, not later. After you set it up, your data will be automatically protected- you won’t have to do anything!


Oh-em-gee, you are indeed freaking out. Your Facebook status says you’re pregnant, and your mom just Liked it. Yes, what Steve posted on your behalf was mean. But it’s your own damn fault for staying logged in on social sites.

Is it really so hard to remember your password that you check ‘remember me’ on a shared computer? What did you think was going to happen? Though it’s not like you don’t already have status updates that will be embarrassing in five years.

  • Hey girlfriend, just reset your password to something OTHER than a piece of personal information! For reals, you brag about how you named your childhood dog your mother’s maiden name, so what did you expect?
  • Think you’re above hacking? You’ll think again after reading about this mathematician who sent an email to Larry Page posing as Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google.
  • Stay Secure: Unclick ‘remember me’ on all the sites you visit, especially social sites and any sites that collect private data, like financial information.

What else can you do to safeguard your devices? Continue reading here at iQ by Intel.

With the help of iQ by Intel, is exploring how technology impacts our lives. iQ by Intel connects readers to the trends and discussions that are moving our planet forward. To read more inspiring stories about how technology is unleashing the world’s human potential to create a better future visit iQ by Intel.

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