I once was a stubborn holdout on smartphones but now I’m a zealous convert. On a recent trip out of the country and out of my phone’s data network, I felt a little dazed and out of sorts without my constant handheld companion. I confess that I used some free, unsecured WiFi during the trip. While I was vigilant about the type of info I was sending and receiving, for all I knew, my smartphone (and passwords and bank info and all manner of personal data) could have been accessed during those brief, careful sessions. And when I read this chilling cybercrime report from Norton, I vowed to change my sloppy smartphone habits.
According to a just-released cybercrime study by Norton, the information security firm, 10% of adults have experienced cybercrime on their mobile device this year, three times as many as have experienced any other sort of crime. 54% have experienced malware or viruses. Above and beyond the dollar cost of these incidents, lost time is the biggest complaint from those who’ve experienced cybercrime—on average they spent 10 days trying to resolve the crime (ah, the anxious pleasures of closing and opening accounts, getting new card numbers issued and old ones deactivated, filing insurance forms and police reports).
Another finding from the 2011 Norton Cybercrime Report that should resonate with travelers is that 77% of those using free WiFi have experienced cybercrime. Gulp. If you travel for business and your smartphone or laptop information is hacked, the possibility of serious information loss jumps.
Norton conducted this study to illustrate the need for the information security products it makes. My favorite among their offerings is a Mobile Security system ($14.99/year) that allows you to locate, lock, and wipe your device if it’s stolen. If someone removes your SIM card, the phone will automatically lock, rendering it useless to others. The Mobile Security product also scans downloads and updates for viruses and Trojan horses, and detects eavesdropping malware. My favorite feature, though, was surely created by a wicked engineering genius: the system can activate the webcam to take a photo of the person using the stolen device!
I may have been a late convert to smartphones, but now I’m preaching the gospel of securing your mobile information so you don’t have to worry when you travel. Can I get an amen?
Ann Shields is a senior digital editor at Travel + Leisure.