Christmas shopping leads to lost mobiles and USB keys

30 Nov 2009

Cabbies in London say this is the worst time of year for leaving mobile devices, like phones, laptops and USB sticks, in the back of taxis, creating a headache for CIOs and company owners.

People forget on average around 10,000 mobile phones a month (almost one every two months per taxi) in the back of taxis, and more than 1,000 other hand-held devices, including iPods, laptops and memory sticks, every month, a taxi survey organised by Credant Technologies suggests.

Data protection

The study also highlights the fact that if you travel in taxis or other forms of public transport, then you need to encrypt your data so no one can see it. At the very least, you should password protect your data since, as various high-profile cases have shown in the last few years, it could easily fall into the wrong hands.

Steve McMenara, a spokesperson for TAXI, a magazine published by the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said: “It’s a known fact that this is the worst time of year for forgetting `property’ at the back of cabs, but especially mobile phones and laptops as they slip onto the floor or get forgotten on the seats as passengers rush onto their next destination with their hands full.

“More people travel into London to buy their Christmas presents during this period who are not regular cab users, they hop a cab to get back to their train stations – and it’s always about an hour later we get a panicked call on their mobile phones asking for them to be returned.”

Exercise vigilance

This warning message to the business community – as well as individuals – to be vigilant when travelling with their mobile devices has never been more relevant, especially as more people than ever before are using the latest range of “must have” mobile smart phones to store sensitive personal and business information.

Many of these devices now have the capacity to store as much as 4,000 pictures, 20,000 Word documents, 200,000 emails or an amazing 500,000 contact files, making them an obvious target for identity-theft criminals and hackers who can – and do – steal this information and then assume the identity of the user both in their personal and business life. 

Sean Glynn, vice-president with Credant Technologies, said: “We carry out our taxi survey regularly and it’s clear that none of us are infallible, especially at this busy time of year, when it’s all too easy to forget things when you’re travelling.”

“Back in the good old days, when a Window was something you looked out of, and a Mac was something you wore in the rain, it used to be small items, like brollies and briefcases stuffed full of boring office papers. Now it’s laptops, smart phones and thumb drives, all chock-full of valuable information to an identity thief,” he added.

“This time of year would appear to be the worst time of year for leaving things at the back of cabs – so our advice is to be more cautious than ever and, as the voice on the train always tells us: check you have all your belongings with you before you leave.”

“And if you don’t want to worry about the consequences of losing your mobile – with all those embarrassing text messages and pictures – or laptop with valuable personal and company information – then protect that data using encryption and/or passwords. The technology is available, so why not use it?”

Apart from finding forgotten mobiles, taxi drivers claimed to have found diamonds, a baby, a sawed-off shotgun, 12 dead pheasants, two dogs, one cat, toilet seats and funeral ashes in the run-up to Christmas.

By John Kennedy

Photo: ‘Tis the season to forget mobile devices in taxi cabs, a survey organised by Credant Technologies has revealed.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years