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Handhelds Security

'Honey Stick' Project Tracks Fate of Lost Smartphones 222

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the tweeting-as-strangers dept.
wiredmikey writes with a quote from an article at Secury Week: "In order to get a look at what happens when a smartphone is lost, Symantec conducted an experiment, called the Honey Stick Project, where 50 fully-charged mobile devices were loaded with fake personal and corporate data and then dropped in publicly accessible spots in five different cities ...Tracking showed that 96-percent of the devices were accessed once found (PDF), and 70-percent of them were accessed for personal and business related applications and information. Less than half of the people who located the intentionally lost devices attempted to locate the owner. Interestingly enough, only two phones were left unaccounted for; the others were all found."
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'Honey Stick' Project Tracks Fate of Lost Smartphones

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:04PM (#39333691)

    I won't care about the contents, would wipe the phone clean, and change the IMEI, then it's a brand new phone for me. (most likely what happened to the 2 unaccounted for)

  • Less than half (Score:5, Interesting)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:09PM (#39333747)
    Just out of curiousity, how many of these phones were able to actually send/receive calls, and (most importantly) -- did they have a phone book entry titled "Mom". Because whenever I find a lost phone, that's the number I call. People are generally honest -- contrary to what this study suggests. If the number is that low, it's probably something wrong with the methodology; ie, a cell phone left at a restaurant has a lot higher chance of making it back to its owner than being left sitting at a bus station. A test like this should try to accurately reproduce where someone would leave their phone, otherwise the stats gathered aren't very interesting.
  • Finding a phone (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zebadee (551743) on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:27PM (#39333919) Homepage
    A couple of months ago whilst visiting Calgary I found a new looking pink Blackberry bold on the street. The phone was fully charged and locked. With a lock it was impossible to contact the owner as I couldn't access the phone to try calling a contact. I just waited and the next day the phone rang. I explained I had found the phone etc and the owner's company sent a courier to pick it up. I was a little disappointed that at no point did anyone thank me for picking up the phone and waiting in for the courier but ah well the phone got back home. The thing is though it made me realise that the only thing the lock on the phone did was prevent me from calling a contact on the phone. If I had wanted to keep it I would have done as a poster above commented and wipe the phone clean. I suppose some phones have sensitive information on them but for the rest of us do we need to lock them if all it does is stop honest people from trying to return them to the rightful owner?
  • by million_monkeys (2480792) on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:30PM (#39333947)

    A group of us were out on Saturday night, and while walking along the seaside (at Redcliffe, QLD, Australia) found a Blackberry on a park bench. There was no password, no contacts labelled in anything that looked like a home number, and all names had expletives in them. Rather than try to find who the owner was (battery nearly dead) we dropped it off at the nearest Police station.

    Random thought: It could have been the business phone of an escort. You wouldn't expect to find a home number. And a lot of times the contacts are used to store the phone numbers of creeps they don't want to hear from again, hence the expletives.

  • Re:Finding a phone (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:39PM (#39334029)

    My stepdad works as a commercial guard on a train, and often finds a phone. Those who phone up and politely say "can I have my phone back" get them.

    He's also had asshats who shout at "whoever stole my phone!!1". Those don't make it back. But they do often make into in the bay by one of the stations...

  • by wytten (163159) <{wytten} {at} {cs.umn.edu}> on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:52PM (#39334141) Homepage

    About 10 years ago I was driving along a gravel road in rural Minnesota and spotted a phone in the road.
    During the first few hours I made a point of answering this phone so that I could get the word out that
    the owner's phone had been lost. Almost without exception the people who called refused to believe that
    I wasn't the owner of the phone playing some trick on them. Then I was accused of stealing the phone
    and later of wanting money for its return. Seriously, I was verbally attacked by these morons for simply
    trying to arrange a place for its return. Eventually I told one of these people which gas station I was leaving
    it at, and simply left it there with a confused cashier. The whole experience was surreal; I felt like I had been
    sucked into this person's life. It would make a good movie plot I think. Needless to say when I see an apparently
    lost phone now, I just ignore it and walk away.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:04PM (#39334247)

    Character is what you do when no one will see.

    One time, I found a cell phone in a dorm lounge. I was there watching my show and was planning to leave the phone in place in case the owner came looking for it. The phone began to ring incessantly, and eventually I answered in case the owner was calling to search for the phone.

    Before I could say more than, "Hello", the owner started chewing me out as a despicable cell phone thief.

    I didn't appreciate this sort of mistreatment. What to do? Well, I am not a thief, so naturally I decided to do the right thing.

    I took the phone and dropped it down the nearby elevator shaft, then resumed watching my show. This was in 2003, so perhaps the phone has been returned to its irate owner by now. Or perhaps it shattered when it hit the base of the shaft three stories down. Either way, I feel happy I chose the righteous path and ignored any temptation to follow baser instincts.

  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:11PM (#39334311) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, it sucks. The snooping is a natural result of voyeurism perceived as normal in this society. Reality TV and social networking are proof that people are willing to give up their privacy for attention, and so people wishing to dig into private details feel that it is the norm rather than the exception. Dignity and respect of privacy no longer have meaning in this society.

    All of the phones used in the experiment were "smartphones." What model of smartphone? Would people feel compelled to steal and reprogram these phones for their own use if they were not so flashy and overfeatured? Do people really need the always-on connectivity and eye candy that smartphones provide? Are they really so important that they cannot wait to get to their workplace to do business? Obviously not, because if they were important, then their employer would accommodate their desire to not have to be tied to the job 24/7.

    My phone is not smart. It does not have a touchscreen, but it has a camera and can take videos. It has limited internet ability. Yet, if my phone was stolen, I would not fret because it is ugly, scraped-up, and the worst a theif will find is a picture of me sucking on a Mexican titty. Nobody would want to steal that piece of shit. And I'm fine with that.
  • Re:Finding a phone (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:22PM (#39334379) Homepage Journal

    With a lock it was impossible to contact the owner as I couldn't access the phone to try calling a contact.

    Just curious - did you pop the battery to look for contact info on the inside of the battery bay?

  • by RulerOf (975607) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:27PM (#39334425)
    I was in a cab with a bunch of drunk people about six years ago, when a phone came up out of the seat we were all asked, "Is this your phone?" Turned out that it didn't belong to any of us. I had never found a lost phone before, but I was sober, and I was also pretty sure I could locate its owner, and as I lived in the area code corresponding to the device's number, would have the easiest time returning it. I took the phone home with me.

    I called a few entries in the contact list, most notably, "Mom." Got voicemail, left a message explaining what had happened. "Mom" never called back. I ended up chatting with two different women though by going through the recent calls list and calling some numbers. I came out of that ordeal with two different stories---apparently the guy who used the phone was either a player or a womanizer, I'm not really sure which. The problem I had was that I wasn't sure who the right party to return this phone to was, exactly. So I had an idea...

    The phone was tattooed with Verizon logos (I sure as hell don't miss those days... that LG UI that got ported to EVERY PHONE THEY SOLD was so fucking awful), so I called 611 with the phone itself. After explaining the situation to a customer service rep, she very regrettably informed me that even though she had the information right in front of her on her screen, she would not tell me the name of the account holder. Go figure. So I wrack my brain trying to think of ideas when I got a pretty good one.

    I asked her, "Can you make three way calls?"

    "No, but I can put you on hold and make another call," she replied.

    "Okay, take down this phone number," and I give her the number of the woman I most suspect that I should return the phone to. "Now put me on hold and call her, and then can you tell me whether or not that person is the owner of this phone?"

    "Oh yes!" she says. "Just wait on hold."

    Ten minutes later...

    "That person IS the owner of this phone. You can return the phone to her and you'll be all set!"

    So I call her one more time and gave her my address, and a car pulled up an hour or two later. The funny thing was that the person who came to the door to pick up the phone wasn't actually the woman I spoke with though... it was her boyfriend, the guy who actually used the phone, and also bore a striking resemblance to the fellow that took all those self-shot photos in the camera roll, modestly covering his junk while staring at a mirror.

    A more positive ID might have been possible, but camera phones had such atrocious low-light performance back then....
  • No, probalby not (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:32PM (#39334465)

    He is likely a Sociopath, incapable of empathizing with others, caring only about his own feelings. While we associate that with serial killers, and indeed all serial killers are, a surprising amount of the population is like that, about 10%. They cannot feel empathy as we do, they can't put themselves in the shoes of another person. All that matters to them is their happiness. So they are the kind of people who will do something to someone and not think twice, but if the same thing is done to them they will get extremely angry. They cannot see that it is the same, to them it is completely different because only their feelings matter.

  • Re:No, probalby not (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wisty (1335733) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:48PM (#39334545)

    No, he's just annoyed at the legalistic interpretation of moral judgements.

    If I find $10 on the side of the road (and can't see who dropped it), I'm going to pocket it. Finders keepers. Technically, it's a crime, but it's not (IMO) wrong.

    If it's traceable (i.e. a wallet, phone) I'll make a reasonable effort to trace the owner, or hand it over to the police.

    To me, it depends on whether the owner is likely to get it back anyway. It's reasonable to assume that dropped money is never coming back. It's reasonable to assume that a dropped wallet will be picked up by someone who will make an effort to return it, or found by the owner (who's going to be looking). The police might not make a distinction, but I do. Sometimes the law (or what people assume the law is) can be "wrong". That's his point.

  • Teachable moment (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @10:12PM (#39334717)

    A few weeks ago I was passing through the Seattle airport with my family. I found an iPad 2 on the shuttle train between terminals - basically brand new with only the very barest of info on it. We were running behind, so I stuck it in my pack and boarded the plane. Once appropriately airborne, I pulled it out and tracked down the email address of the owner (good thing they use Facebook - I don't). My 4.5 year old son asked me what I was doing and I replied; "We're going to give this back to the people who lost it." Which we did as soon as we got home.

    We don't own an iPad and my kids, I'm sure, would love to have one. But teaching my kids to do the right thing - because it's the right thing to do - is far, far more important than a piece of electronica. And if it was my phone, or his Star Wars lunch box - we'd want it back.

  • Laptop Fishing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by TibbonZero (571809) <[Tibbon] [at] [gmail.com]> on Monday March 12, 2012 @10:14PM (#39334733) Homepage Journal
    Recently I had an extra laptop. I had the idea (but didn't execute on it) to go to coffee shops with it, with tracking software installed in the background. I would then leave the laptop frequently while "going to the bathroom". Eventually in theory the laptop would be stolen, I would be able to trace it, track the person down, call the authorities and get it back. One less laptop thief running around (or at least unknown to police) and a fun time. Unfortunately, I didn't follow through on it.
  • Re:Less than half (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @11:09PM (#39335133)

    I once found an iPhone 4, locked, of course. I took the SIM card out, contacted the service provider. They where not able to reach the owner, but left a note on their account with my name and phone number.

    After a month, I called back. They could not find the account to which I was referring to because the owner changed phone, and ,evidently, SIM cards, disassociating it with the account.

    I ended up selling it,

  • by arkhan_jg (618674) on Monday March 12, 2012 @11:37PM (#39335315)

    Advere possession only applies if the owner knows (or should know) you have it, but doesn't care. So if you find a mobile phone and tell the owner that you've got it, and they never turn up to claim it, after a while it becomes yours. Same goes for land; if you occupy it (by for example, building your fence over part of their land), and they allow it without some specific contract lease or something, then eventually it becomes yours - after 10 years, I think.

    Picking something up, keeping it and telling nobody, does not qualify under adverse possession.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @12:21AM (#39335563)
    The nature of the fake user data may have influenced the results. If I thought I had the phone of some some MBA tool I would hand it to a bum. If it looked like someone nice I would go out of my way to help it on its way home.
    Also if some guy found the phone of what seemed to be a hot chick he might tend to be more chivalrous.
    For real phones the worst case scenario for the phone would be if it were a politician's. That phone's data would be on the net in two seconds.
  • by jareth-0205 (525594) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @06:10AM (#39336805) Homepage

    And your reply is testimony to the "kinda shitty" attitudes with our modern society. Character is what you do when no one will ever know what you did. You and he have none. I would love to reply under my login, but evidently replies like this keep my karma level in the basement.

    Hm... I don't disagree, but hiding behind an AC and then judging someone on what they do when unknown? You know that 'character' is also questionable when you hide your identity just because some people might disagree with you?

  • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @08:18AM (#39337203) Journal

    Since it did happen, it appears he lives in the real world. The real question though, is what world is it that you live in?

    Perhaps GP lives in a more civilized/honest part of the world than GGP. Thus his experience suggests and his expectation is that the vast majority of people are honest.

    I dropped my passport once in Tampere (EU passport, possibly worth a bit to a sleazeball), and got it back by asking at some shops I had been in earlier. It had apparently been found on the ground outside and been handed in to the shopkeeper. Where I work (Kuopio, about 400 people in the office, and lots of visitors), it is unheard-of for things to be taken without permission, and people leave stuff lying around quite often. If a wallet is left on a desk in an open-plan area, it will still be there the next day. A high-end laptop can be left anywhere at a customer's factory in the Nordic countries, and it will still be there when you return. On the other hand, if we visit the U.K. or the U.S., we're supposed to secure any laptop with a locking cable if we leave it for even a few minutes; and that's company policy.

  • Re:No, probalby not (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:30AM (#39337877)

    I am not sure about US$ 10, but I once found what ammounts to about US$250 in the street. I retrieved it, walked to a spot about 5m from there, and waited.

    About 30 minutes later, I noticed an eldery couple going down the same walkway, looking frantic at the ground. I asked what happened, and the old lady said she had dropped the money for her medication. I asked how much, she quoted the exact amount I found, so I just handed it to her.

    There you have it. Finder's keepers and other such crap would likely have resulted in that old lady (which was CLEARLY not well off) missing her medication, and who knows how much damage that would have caused her.

  • by Larryish (1215510) <larryish@Nospam.gmail.com> on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @12:06PM (#39339627)

    The reason for anonymity is to air your views while avoiding persecution by those who disagree, be they legislators or moderators.

Never test for an error condition you don't know how to handle. -- Steinbach

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