Symantec "lost" phone study shows most people are dishonest

By on March 12, 2012, 4:30 PM

Symantec's Honey Stick Project (pdf) confirms what many of us already knew: almost no one can resist the temptation of poking around on someone else's smartphone. 

The study placed 50 smartphones in various public areas throughout several major American and Canadian cities. The phones were fully charged and allowed random passersby unfettered access to the device with no passwords or security measures, an all too common practice for most smartphone owners. All human interactions with the handsets were monitored and logged remotely. The goal was to assess the "human threat" of unsuspecting people discovering someone's phone based on how they interacted with the device.

96 percent of "lost" smartphones were accessed by discoverers while about half of those people also peeked into email and other potentially sensitive areas. 89 percent of the devices had the owner's personal apps and/or data accessed. "Access" was defined as an app or file being opened on the phone. 

Obviously though, even the most honest finders may have been looking for contact information via the address book and email apps in an attempt to identify the owner. However, with that in mind, finders also accessed a file named "Saved Passwords" 57 percent of the time.

Additionally, 53 percent of phone finders inexplicably opened a document titled "HR Salaries" while a disappointing 49 percent of people attempted to use an app named "Remote Admin". 60 percent of the devices showed that people had attempted to log on to social network services under the owner's user name. Meanwhile, 43 percent actually had the nerve to do the same for banking apps. When confronted with password prompts, the individuals would try to guess passwords.

Of the 50 "lost" phones, owners received offers to return the devices 25 times. The report claims that contact information was made easily accessible on the phone for this purpose.




User Comments: 24

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hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

"With that in mind however, finders accessed a file named "Saved Passwords" 57 percent of the time."

Hahaha. Their are some nosy people out there, huh?

Guest said:

Imagine that. smh lol

Tygerstrike said:

What a freakin SHOCK!! Pppl are dishonest??? Noooooooooooo!?!?! Is it any surprise? Im so used to ppl being dishonest that an honest person is a real surprise.

ikesmasher said:

Tygerstrike said:

What a freakin SHOCK!! Pppl are dishonest??? Noooooooooooo!?!?! Is it any surprise? Im so used to ppl being dishonest that an honest person is a real surprise.

whats shocking, at least in my opinion, is not that the phones weren't returned, but the fact that people tried guessing passwords to peoples bank accounts and accessed social networking accounts, instead of just restoring the phone or something.

psycros psycros said:

<b>Of the 50 "lost" phones, owners received offers to return the devices 25 times.</b>

So how many were actually returned? I'm guessing...zero? Another key question: how many of these phones were left in "public areas" that had any kind of responsible party the phone could have been left with (maintenance, security, service desk, etc)? If the majority weren't left in spots like that it would skew the results quite a bit. Most people who wouldn't snoop on a lost phone wouldn't touch it begin with - they'd keep right on walking. The remaining minority would probably hand it over to the lost-and-found it one was near at hand. Almost nobody is going to go out of there way (call the cops, etc) just to see a phone get back to its owner..they'll rarely do it for a wallet or purse these days. Also, you would've gotten more turned in/returned devices in small towns as opposed to big cities. None of these facts dispute the overall result, though - personal honor and civic decency are practically dead concepts in our society. The fact that these tests were designed to <i>market security software</i> instead of promote teaching values to our kids speaks volumes. You can thank the ACLU and other leftist subversive groups for that.

psycros psycros said:

psycros said:

So how many were actually returned? I'm guessing...zero?</quote>

What I should've typed was, "how many were returned <i>for free</i>.."

Guest said:

I'm wondering if I should feel like an ***** for turning in (a) gold necklace (broken clasp) found in parking lot and (b) purse with credit cards and ID discarded by young black after he yanked the cash out and ran. I hope the policemen I turned these in weren't laughing at my honest attempt to return what was lost. I will admit that I did keep the $20 out of the washing machine - after posting a sign asking if anyone lost "anything" (no response).

killeriii said:

I find the 43% that accessed Banking Apps the most disappointing. That's a criminal mind and work.

Snoops are one thing, but it saddens me to think that that many people have criminal tenancies.

I do agree with psycros' analysis of the situation:

I think i'm a fairly honest person, and if i saw a phone sitting on a park bench, i would probably just keep walking. Although if i was in a restaurant, i would probably turn it in.

Guest said:

Some people, like me for instance, would not pick up the phone at all. So don't say most people are dishonest, say most people who picked up a smartphone that wasnt theirs are dishonest.

Tygerstrike said:

My post was purely sarcasm. I deal with ppl and cellphones all day. Most of the time ppl will be honest "In General". However, give them a situation where they can be dishonest and no one will find out, they turn into little thieves. Also they will make themselves out to be victims given an opportunity. General honest flew out the window when ex-president Clinton lied to America lol.

Guest said:

People are dishonest? Oh gee...I wonder why?

40+ years of taking god out of our lives....the ***** movement that you can be a single parent, heather has to mommies, political correctness and on and on.

I just can't understand why people are dishonest.......LOL.

You REAP what you SEW!

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I've found a few phones in my time (no smartphones) and i will admit to having a snoop around. I wouldn't even dare of going into someone's bank account though.

These sort of findings don't surprise me one bit.

Guest said:

"Symantec "lost" phone study shows most Amarican & Canadian people are dishonest"

There, for you.

Guest said:

nothing to do with dishonesty, more so nosey ppl. its like leaving a box with "dont open" on it...

Guest said:

I'm sorry but 50 people in all of North America is hardly a conclusive number.

Also, honesty and nosiness are 2 different things. Wouldn't Symantec's 'study' fall under nosiness too?

Personally I find that Symantec is dishonest.

"Powerful protection against viruses and spyware that won't slow you down"

Last time I checked their software was majorly bloated. I won't get into their pricing.

Guest said:

What does god have to do with this? I'm an athiest and I'd do the right thing. Morals and values are not related to religion. Why do you people bring up religion and politics into something that purely isn't related to either? That's basically like saying, "Someone stole my phone, blame God and Obama." This problem is related to human nature. You should be blaming the shitty *** society we live in not GOD.....

*****

Guest said:

I agree - many of the ones that picked it up were dishonest. How many just left it there ?

Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Dudes... information is expensive nowadays, how are you going to let free information go by just like that? =P

Renrew Renrew said:

Reap what you Sew--English is kind of confusing should be "sow"-but then again, a female swine is also a Sow.

As an Agnostic, I could not agree more with the guest about morals and values having little to do with God, but would add manners and kindness to your fellow man, to that equation.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

I once read "Do unto others as you would have them do to you",

but the norm today must now be "Do unto others BEFORE they do you under" :sigh:

DanUK DanUK said:

Guest said:

People are dishonest? Oh gee...I wonder why?

40+ years of taking god out of our lives....quote]

Yeah man, jesus would have totes handed back those phones straight away!

Oh wait..

Guest said:

Guest said:

I hope the policemen I turned these in weren't laughing at my honest attempt to return what was lost.....quote]

Had a similar situation a few years back (I was 15 at the time) - found a wallet in the park with the owners social security card and what looked like a bunch of invoices, credit cards inside. Obviously discarded after the cash was taken out by whoever originally took the wallet. Police station was 2 blocks away, I figured what the hell, I'll go turn it in. When I came there and explained that I wanted to turn in a wallet, I got a lot of amused/bewildered looks from everyone who was in the lobby - a few police officers, couple guys in cuffs, clerk, etc. Half of them couldn't believe I actually bothered to pick it up and walk to the station, from the looks of the other half they clearly thought I was an *****. Made me stay there for 40 minutes while they filed a report, asking for my personal info, where I live, whether there was any cash in the wallet when I picked it up (think about that question for a sec). I genuinely thought this would be a pretty normal situation but instead this must have been a very rare occurance for cops working in LA. While they didnt openly laugh at me, I'm pretty sure they would be retelling the story to their friends during a lunch break for a while later.

Overall I felt pretty stupid for putting myself in that position and decided ignore things like this in the future. So when I found a Blackberry phone in a gas station a few months ago, I did what everyone else does - wiped data and sold it on ebay.

Pretty sure that in this survey the phone I found would not be heard from again until it got to its new owner.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I've found a few phones in my time (no smartphones) and i will admit to having a snoop around. I wouldn't even dare of going into someone's bank account though.

These sort of findings don't surprise me one bit.

I'm the same way.

I would check out everything in the phone just to see what the users interest were. However if I personally knew who owned the phone, I would be more inclined to return it without snooping. I could never use anything I find against someone else. Anyone that can, deserves whatever punishment they get.

About storing bank account numbers in a phone, how stupid could someone be? I hope they never lay their phone down just anywhere. If they do they are asking for what they get too.

Guest said:

I'd be interested to see what the percentage of phones would get returned if the devices were password protected and showed a contact info screen after an incorrect password guess...

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