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Symantec's 'lost' smartphone stunt shows the snoopy side of humanity

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A Symantec PR stunt called the "Honey Stick Project" tracked 50 "lost" smartphones. The company found that only half the finders ever tried to return the device, and nearly all of them attempted to access personal information.

symantec security 2
symantec security 2

If you've ever dealt with that sinking feeling of despair as you run around in search of a misplaced phone, Symantec isn't doing much to help you out. The security firm recently released the results of its "Smartphone Honey Stick Project," in which it purposefully lost 50 smartphones in five North American cities to see the results and accumulate some PR. The phones were loaded with various bits of fake personal and business data, as well as software that allowed Symantec to remotely track what the finders did with them. The results aren't exactly reassuring.

The company's little stunt showed that its "lost" phones only had a 50 percent chance of being returned, and in almost all cases finders tried to access personal or business information beyond obvious contact info. Of the most egregious offences: 43 percent tried to access a banking app, 72 percent took a gander the phone's photo library, and 60 percent went snooping around social networks and email. Perhaps more disturbing for the business world, nearly half of all finders tried to access information that was clearly corporate in nature — not exactly information you'd need to return a lost phone.

While the numbers are disturbing, Symantec's experiment did have a rather small sample size, and it's not unexpected that a security firm is suggesting you should take more precautions when dealing with mobile data. But it's still a good reminder to at the very least use a lock-screen passcode. Or just do what we do, and never, ever leave your home.