Some four million Brits who lose their mobile phones are exposing their companies and themselves to criminal exploitation, according to a survey of UK phone users.
The survey, for security firm Credant Technologies, found 80% of phone users store information on their phones that criminals could use to steal their identities. It also found that 99% use their phone for business purposes, even though employers of more than a quarter have told them not to.
The risk arises because four in 10 of the 600 commuters surveyed at London railway stations said they do not password-protect their phones. This exposes business data stored on phones such as business e-mails (35%), business contacts (77%), work diaries (30%), corporate documents and spreadsheets (17%) and customer information (23%).
Personal information at risk includes bank account details (16%), pins and passwords (24%), social security and inland revenue details (11%) and store credit card information (10%).
This information could allow someone to clone the user's personal or even corporate life, said Paul Huntingdon, public sector director at Credant. "It is imperative that all mobile phone users, even with the most basic handset, password-protect and encrypt them," he said.
Huntingdon estimates that four million people are at risk. This is the 15% who store sensitive data on the 40% of unencrypted phones that belong to the UK's 70 million registered users.
The Home Office this week gave £250,000 to link the Police National Computer (PNC) to the National Mobile Phone Register (NMPR) to help police check for stolen phones.
It has also been working with the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit to develop safeguards for when mobile phones are used as debit cards.
Home Office minister Alan Campbell said 90% of handsets reported stolen were blocked within 24 hours of reporting. Police search the NMPR on average 25,000 times a month.
The National Mobile Phone Register is linked to voluntary databases such as Immobilise, where people can enter their phone's details. About 22 million phones are currently registered.