Manufacturers and retailers of smartphones and mobile Internet devices can and should do more to keep their customers safe, research by the Consumers Council of Canada has found.
“Most consumers don’t understand the risks they take and often fail to take simple, inexpensive actions to prevent the loss and exposure of their private information,” Council President Aubrey LeBlanc said. “Retailers, in particular, can help consumers protect themselves better.”
The Council advises consumers to do the following:
- Lock the smartphone (or other mobile device) with a password.
- Buy a sturdy case.
- Backup regularly.
- Don’t connect to unfamiliar public Wi-Fi sites.
- “Think before you click” on a link or an e-mail that “doesn’t smell right.”
- Scare yourself. Pretend you’ve lost your smartphone. What will nosy people find? What would your parents or your kids say if they found it?
- Check carefully that the device you buy will let you avoid risks you cannot accept. (e.g., How sturdy does the device need to be? Can you afford all the costs if the device is lost, stolen or broken? Are the security features easily understood?)
Focus groups of consumers who participated in the research said wireless carriers and device retailers are in a key position to help them avoid the risks of using smartphones.
The report advises that device manufacturers need to make “on” and not “off” the default setup for security features. Also, wireless carriers, manufacturers and software platform providers should distribute software updates faster and for more years of device ownership to protect against new, malicious activity.
Regulators should ensure systems get put in place that make it easy to secure and disable stolen and lost devices, so they are less attractive to thieves.
Dennis Hogarth and Howard Deane, who specialize in data governance, knowledge management, information risk management and personal data privacy, authored the report for the Council. Research House, a division of Environics, conducted focus groups for the research.
The Council received funding from Industry Canada’s Contributions Program for Non-profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations to conduct the research. The views expressed in the report are not necessarily those of Industry Canada or the Government of Canada.
Click here to download the report