Many Canadians’ smartphones aren’t password-protected: study

by | Feb 4, 2014 | News

By Joshua Sherman

One of the world’s leading technology security firms warned Thursday of the need for users to protect digital devices with passwords.

According to McAfee Inc.’s new Love, Relationships & Technology study, 35 per cent of Canadian smartphone users surveyed don’t have a password set on their device.

The study also found that 35 per cent of users who do have password-protected devices use the same code on multiple platforms and 40 per cent have shared their passwords.

“With all the stories we’ve heard about intimate photos being leaked, it’s hard to believe people are still sharing their passwords,” said Brenda Moretto, a McAfee Canada sales manager, in a news release.

“I would say that a majority of the public are completely unaware that mobiles are risky. They look at them simply as phones,” Robert Siciliano, a McAfee spokesperson, told Humber News in an interview Tuesday.

Victor Beitner, an IT security specialist with Toronto-based Cyber Security Canada, said he constantly sees security issues arise with digital devices.

“Every day there are vulnerabilities out there,” he said.

And putting a password on a smartphone or tablet isn’t the only necessary security measure; Beitner recommends users set different passwords for each website they log on to.

“People should have a different password for every site,” he said.

Beitner cited the LastPass app – which automatically generates and manages unique passwords for users’ accounts – as a good tool for those who don’t want to memorize multiple codes.

Beitner also said users who don’t read agreements before downloading apps are putting their mobile devices at risk.

Sometimes these agreements will outline what kind of data an app will obtain, explained Beitner, noting the Facebook app logs SMS messages.

Bernie Monette, a Humber web development program coordinator, suggested users should be more careful about what kind of data makes it onto their digital devices in the first place.

“If you’ve got something that you don’t want other people to know, you just don’t put it on your phone or your computer,” said Monette.

But while this method is effective, Beitner acknowledged its inconvenience for tech users.

“We’re stuck, because everyone is buying smartphones and the whole purpose of a smartphone is to have all your confidential private information accessible, so it’s a Catch-22,” said Beitner.

If users really want to make data on devices permanently inaccessible, Monette said deleting it isn’t enough, because it can be retrieved.

“Really the best thing to do is you just find a metal shredder somewhere and just send it (the digital device) through that, because that’s irrevocable.”

On the current state of security in the tech world, Beitner said, “It’s still the wild west.”