Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

AVG (AU/NZ) Pty Ltd, the distributor of the award-winning AVG anti-virus and Internet security software in Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, observes that almost every business traveller now takes at least one mobile device to the airport. Not everyone still has them all when they reach their destination.

Smartphones, tablet computers and laptops are increasingly popular travelling companions - they're also among the items most commonly left behind on planes and in airports.

Travellers left more than 11,000 laptops, tablet PCs, smartphones and USB memory sticks at US airports in the past year, according to a recent survey1. Another study2 found more than 800,000 laptops were stolen or lost at airports in the US and Europe in 2008. Up to seven in every 10 laptops lost at airports worldwide are never reunited with their owner.

In Australia, the number of mobile phones reported lost or stolen has doubled in the past five years to 200,000 annually - that's 4000 a week, or one every three minutes.3

Up to 50 mobile phones a month - 600 a year - are lost and never reclaimed at Sydney Airport alone, where all lost property is bundled up each month and sent to be sold at an auction clearing house. Smartphones are now a high, fast growing, proportion of all mobile phones.

In the rush to disembark, business travellers leave behind lots of precious cargo - usually in the seatback pocket of the plane. Back in the terminal, most laptops are lost at security checkpoints, gates and lounges. Food courts, restrooms and baggage claim areas are other places devices and their owners tend to part ways.

"Business trips are meant to be productive. Losing a smartphone, laptop or tablet computer can turn that business opportunity into a frustrating, stressful and costly exercise that can cause you to lose more sleep than jetlag," Lloyd Borrett, Security Evangelist at AVG (AU/NZ), said.

"There's the inconvenience of filing reports and re-tracing steps and the cost of replacing the device, but perhaps the biggest cost is the loss of business and personal information.

A lost tablet, phone or laptop is a bitter pill to swallow

"Most mobile devices are packed with valuable, often confidential, potentially irreplaceable business and personal information including contacts, photos, videos, emails, meeting notes, presentations and calendars. That makes it vital for travellers, especially those carrying sensitive company information, to protect their device - and their business - from theft or loss in transit.

"Amazingly, while more than half (53%) of travellers said their laptops contained sensitive or confidential business information, two in every three (65%) said they did nothing to protect or secure it.2"

Losing a laptop, tablet or smartphone with unsecured business data on it could have devastating results in terms of fraud, identity theft, reputation damage and lost business - particularly for small to medium-sized organisations (SMBs) that may not have the same resources to rectify the problem after the event.

"The good news is there are steps smartphone, tablet and mobile computer owners can take to make sure they don't say bon voyage to their devices in transit - plus new ways to increase the chance of being reunited with your lost or stolen phone, tablet or laptop if it does go astray," Borrett said.

Tips to protect your digital devices

  • Look - Don't leave your smartphone, tablet or laptop unattended. Common sense, right? Yes, but more than 40% of British travellers said their laptop disappeared after asking fellow passengers to watch it for them!

  • Backup all your information regularly - your address book, calendar, phone numbers and anything else you don't want to lose. More than half the British passengers confessed their private data was not protected - and a similar number said the data on the laptop was their only copy2.

  • Lock - Use your mobile device's security features. Set a personal identification number (PIN) or password that must be entered before anyone can use it or access voice messages.

  • Label - Clearly label your device with a name and an alternative contact number. Phones and laptops often end up collecting dust in lost property boxes because there are no clear contact details. (A Good Samaritan won't be able to re-call your last dialled number to find you if your smartphone is PIN or password-protected.)

  • Record - your handset's IMEI number and keep it somewhere safe. Every mobile has a unique electronic 15-digit serial number. You can get your IMEI by dialing *#06#.

  • Block - Ask your network carrier to block your mobile phone handset if it is lost or stolen, using your IMEI number. You can unblock it if you get it back.

  • Get it back - install security software that helps you locate your device and retrieve or delete the information on it remotely. 

All is not lost

Network carriers don't track lost or stolen phones, but new security software can do that - and more. AVG Mobilation is a free security solution that offers protection for Android smartphones and tablets.

As well as scanning, detecting and eliminating mobile nasties like viruses and malware, AVG Mobilation can help you track and locate a lost or stolen Android smartphone or tablet on Google Maps using GPS. It has PIN and password protection so no-one else can use your device.

You can use it to remotely lock your missing device, or send a message to the tablet or phone. You can even ring your missing device - even if the phone is on silent! To keep your private information private, a remote wipe feature lets you remove all your personal information from your lost smartphone or tablet.

And so you don't have to start from scratch, it backups all your contacts, call logs, bookmarks, messages and any apps you've installed, all to an SD card.

"With AVG Mobilation for Android, tablet and smartphone users have peace of mind knowing their valuable data and devices are protected and secure no matter where their travels take them," Borrett said.

To help SMBs address the policy, technology and process issues involved with securing their smartphones, tablets, workstations and/or servers, AVG has created the AVG Small Business Security Guide: Securing you start-up or small business, which provides some simple but effective steps small business owners can take to secure their business. Plus AVG's Business Resource Centre has a library of guides and tools that can help you protect your business from identity theft, data breaches, online banking break-ins and other computer crimes.

For the series of informative security tips, how-to's and fact sheets see:
For video tips from AVG (AU/NZ), see: www.youtube.com/user/avgaunz

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