Thousands of mobile devices left in Sydney taxis: Survey

Lost your mobile phone, personal digital assistant or laptop? There's a good chance you've left it in a taxi.

Lost your mobile phone, personal digital assistant or laptop? There's a good chance you've left it in a taxi. And you're less likely to reclaim your property than for it to stay missing.

According to a survey conducted by mobile device security provider Pointsec, in the last six months in Sydney alone, taxi drivers have found an average of 2.31 mobile phones, 0.3 pocket personal computers/personal digital assistants and 0.17 notebooks per vehicle. If the experience of the 100 taxis surveyed is replicated across Sydney's fleet of 5,749 taxis, passengers have left a total of 13,280 mobiles, 977 laptops and 1725 pocket personal computers/personal digital assistants behind over the six month period.

The retrieval rate of devices was very low, according to the survey. Over the last six months, only one-third of the pocket personal computers/personal digital assistants, 42 percent of mobiles and 18 percent of laptops were reclaimed by their owners.

Sydney has the lowest return rate of the participating cities for mobile devices lost in taxis. Helsinki in Finland and Stockholm in Sweden have the highest rate of those surveyed with a 100 percent return rate for pocket personal computers/personal digital assistants and laptops, and 75 percent and 92 percent for mobile phones respectively.

Cities surveyed were Sydney, Copenhagen in Denmark, Helsinki, Paris, Munich, Oslo in Norway, Stockholm, London and Chicago.

Of all the cities surveyed, an average of 80 percent of passengers are reunited with their mobile phones and 96 percent with their pocket personal computers/personal digital assistants and laptops -- with the taxi drivers in almost all cases tracking down their owners.

Pointsec warns that the business community and individuals need to be vigilant when travelling with their mobile devices, especially since more people are now using the latest range of mobile smartphones to store sensitive personal and business information.

Many of the mobile devices now have a standard memory capacity of 80Mb enabling users to store 6,000 word documents, 720,000 e-mails, 360,000 contact details or 7,200 pictures.

Pointsec said the newer devices can give a thief access to details of an individual's personal life and compromise the security of the employer's information technology.

Businesses and individuals are urged to use the password and encryption facilities available with the recent crop of high memory capacity mobile smartphones, in order to protect the sensitive information held on them.

Pointsec boss Oscar Moren said it was alarming how few employees were concerned about backing up or protecting their data.

Moren added that mobile workers should talk to their information technology department about taking responsibility for security. "This way your back is covered if you do lose your mobile device. Legislation is slowly becoming more specific in this area and there is a good chance we will soon see legal action taken against individuals and organisations that do not protect information that they store on other people."

Moren said they are seeing a new trend emerging with Australian corporations in terms of mobile device security. Several organisations are now looking at extending the mobile device security from just laptops to mobile phones and personal digital assistants.

"We are talking to several large organisations in Australia who are will take the next step in protecting mobile devices. It used to be just laptop focused but now several organisations are looking at centrally securing mobile phones and personal digital assistants," Moren said.