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Password carelessness can see mobile users run up costly bills

A study from security firm McAfee has revealed how lax UK users are when it comes to protecting their smartphones and tablets with passcodes, as millions run the risk of having data stolen and racking up costly bills.

Out of the 1,000 consumers surveyed by McAfee and One Poll in February, as many as two thirds did not bother using a PIN or password for their phone, while just eight per cent of tablet users set up a passcode on their device.

Many of those who do use passcodes still leave their security fragile however, as 62 per cent admitted they share login details with others. Much of this takes place within families, as just over a third of respondents allowed children to access their mobile devices, one in five admitted their child knows their PIN or password, and 11 per cent shared details for buying apps from iTunes, Google Play, and other online stores.

Allowing family members to know passcodes may seem fairly innocuous, but just last week consumers were given a prime example of the potential damage careless sharing can cause.

Greg and Sharon Kitchen saw no danger in allowing their five-year-old son Danny to download the free game, Zombie v Ninja on their iPad. But having possession of the iTunes password allowed Danny to inadvertently order dozens of paid add-ons, producing a staggering bill totalling £1,710.43.

Discussing the survey and the mobile security landscape in general with ITProPortal last week, McAfee’s Director of Mobility Product Marketing, Lianne Caetano, said privacy concerns were at the forefront of most mobile users’ minds, but not enough people are backing up fears with action to help protect their devices.

“Mobile malware is growing in number, but it’s privacy that’s most concerning users,” said Caetano, yet she claimed that a widespread failure to transfer ingrained security principals from PC to mobile was still leaving many exposed to the possibility of losing sensitive data and money.

“It’s clear that consumers are forgetting exactly how much valuable information is stored on their mobile or tablet,” Raj Samani, McAfee’s EMEA CTO, said after the survey. “These devices can contain personal data like bank details and addresses, so it’s crucial that people take the same care they would with their wallet or computer. Failing to set a PIN or password is like leaving your front door open: Would you be surprised if you came home to find your PC missing?”