Can losing one’s smartphone cause anxiety? Apparently so.

August 22, 2014 | Hamilton, Ontario
Contributed by Heston Tobias, Advancement Intern

cell-phone-stealingMobile devices such as cellphones, laptops and tablets are an important part of our lives. These devices provide us with valuable services such as connecting with anyone around the world while also accessing an unlimited amount of information from the web.

Yet, as mobile devices become a more important part of both our private and public lives, they also pose huge security threats to us if they are lost or stolen.

McMaster professors Zhiling Tu, Yufei Yuan and Norm Archer explore both the security threats that users might face if they lose a mobile device as well as the coping mechanisms that they could take to combat these threats.

The researchers found that since we use our mobile devices for important parts of both our private life—private photos, credit cards, personal contacts—and our public life—sensitive work information— malicious third parties can potentially use the device’s information to affect our personal life and our career—as well as other people’s personal lives and careers.

When it comes to losing mobile devices, users are often in denial: they can’t fathom the idea of being separated from their mobile devices.

The researchers acknowledge that there are precautions we can take that can prepare us for the unfortunate loss of our devices. Most devices, for example, have settings which automatically lock or delete important information in the case that it is lost or stolen.

Shockingly, in spite of the precautions that are available to us, the researchers find that generally users are either not aware of them or are not willing to use them. This indicates that when it comes to losing mobile devices, users are often in denial: they can’t fathom the idea of being separated from their mobile devices.

The researchers suggest to two initiatives that might help users keep their phones more secure: organizations can promote mobile device security among users via awareness campaigns; and companies can enforce measures that might secure any sensitive information that might be on their employees’ mobile devices.

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