Research: 3,444 Smartphones and Tablets Lost at Country's Largest Airports

By Jessica Binns, Contributing Editor — July 03, 2012

Data protection firm Credant Technologies published the results of its second survey of top airports in the United States. In the last year, travelers left behind 8,016 mobile devices at seven of the largest airports in the country, including: Chicago O'Hare, Denver International, San Francisco International, Charlotte Douglas, Miami International, Orlando International and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Credant's research found that of the seven airports surveyed, only one reported that it transferred its cache of lost mobile devices over to the authorities.

Credant's research found that the following types of devices were left behind:

  • Smartphones and tablets: 3,444 (43.0 percent)
  • Laptops: 3,576 (44.6 percent)
  • USB drives: 996 (12.4 percent)
Interestingly, in February 2012, Javelin Research, found that 62 percent of smartphone users do not employ a password on their device, opening up the risk of a serious data breach – which can cause embarrassing headlines and massive fines. The consequences of leaving behind these devices is difficult to quantify, but people traveling for business or pleasure are likely to access their company's corporate network, favorite website or online merchant, resulting in sensitive information residing on endpoint devices. If unauthorized individuals can obtain one or more of the devices left behind at an airport, and the device is not encrypted, the consequences could be severe.

"These research findings are a wake-up call for CSOs and security managers across all enterprise organizations and SMBs," said Bob Heard, founder and CEO of Credant Technologies. "With widespread BYOD adoption, companies must be vigilant in securing data wherever it resides. Be it a USB drive, a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone, unsecured data puts companies at risk – making it critical to encrypt data both at rest and in motion."

Other Notable Findings
  • Five of seven airports responded that the most common place mobile devices are left behind is at the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) checkpoints
  • Two of seven answered that they found most missing devices in restrooms
  • Six of seven airports replied that their mobile devices were donated to charity or transferred to another location.
  • Only one airport indicated they brought their missing devices to the authorities or to police
  • Airports also responded that some of the more interesting items left behind this year included tires and microwave ovens.
Moving Forward: How Can I Protect Myself?

"The moment you lose your mobile device, call the airport's lost and found department," said Darren Shimkus, senior vice president of marketing, Credant Technologies. "You may be pleasantly surprised that they have your device. I'd also recommend the following precautions:
  • Ensure that any device you use to store corporate data is protected, especially things like smartphones and removable media
  • Use a strong password on your smartphone – simple passwords like "1234" are not adequate data protection
  • If you need to share information or back it up, ask your IT organization if they can help you keep it secure – working with them may save a lot of trouble later on."

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