Smartphone stupidity

PHONE FILCHING: Fifty per cent of all thefts.

CAN it be true that the jostling passenger who stole my phone on the packed 916 bus in Rome last month really was a Catholic priest?

Of course I ignored all the warnings about pick-pocketing in Rome. Couldn’t happen to me. 

Though it’s unlikely to have been my priestly neighbour, I would have felt less humiliated if my phone had indeed transitioned that smoothly from my zipped pocket into the folds of a cassock as we both headed for the Vatican and redemption. 

Almost half of all thefts reported now are smartphones, routed virtually anywhere in the world within days by well-oiled syndicates. 

If you’re insured you’re in for a challenging round of musical chairs at a Local Police station to file the required report. Harbour no illusions: they almost certainly won’t look for it. 

But replacing the actual device is not the main issue. 

Indeed it’s an opportunity to buy a shiny new gadget even if it does mean living on bread and water for the next month.

Nor is it mainly about one thing many people forget: that if you don’t block a lost phone immediately, the bad guys have a nasty little wheeze of using it to call premium numbers back in Desolatistan at €20+ a minute on your account, ka-ching.

Nope, it’s all the confidential stuff we keep on our phones these days which hurts. Banking apps, online shopping apps, vulnerable information of every hue and cry and all those access codes. 

Tackle the damage limitation and you quickly learn just how many websites simply aren’t geared up for your scenario. ‘Register a new phone to your account? No problem, for security reasons first send us confirmation from your old one.’ Ummm….

And of course there are lessons to be learned. If only I had set up the wonderful ‘find my phone’ facility which both Apple and Android devices offer – before it got stolen. If only I had kept a separate note of all my online banking and other confidential information so that I would know who to call and what to say in the event of. 

If only…

But look on the bright side. A third of the users in a recent US study said they would pay a thousand dollars to get their phone back. I’m not one of those people.  

I would have loved to see the look of disgust when my thief realised he’d stolen a six-year old dinosaur of a phone. Heck, given time to first extract my information, I’d actually have paid him to take it.

Steal away

AS the FBI keeps discovering, current phone security erects a daunting fortress wall around your device. If you enable it. 

Short of the rather uncomfortable option of cutting off your finger, thieves find a fingerprint-protected phone a nightmare to crack. Ditto a good password, and that doesn’t mean 123456. 

At the very least, when you get a new phone install a security app or suite which lets you wipe your phone remotely in a worst-case scenario. 

Phone-tracking apps can certainly work. But if your phone is stolen, not just lost, consider very carefully what you would do if a tracker does indeed find it – in the middle of a mafia stronghold or a neighbourhood where even the shadows won’t go. Good luck finding a SWAT team.