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Apps help protect your smartphone from snoops

May 20, 2013 8:04:43 AM PDT
Worried about sensitive information on your phone? 7 On Your Side tested apps that can help you keep track of your cellphone and who's using it.

What happens when you leave a cellphone unsecured? Symantec, the makers of Norton Security, wanted to find out. The company put 50 phones around San Francisco and four other cities. Here's what they found out -- while only 50 percent of the people who found the phones tried to return them, 97 percent rifled through them.

"The people on those phones snooped," said Symantec Security Response Director Kevin Haley. "They went around and looked at the work information, the personal information, they tried to log into bank account of the person. They went into their Facebook. They went into files marked HR salaries. They went into emails. Curiosity is a really powerful thing."

And it's not just lost or misplaced phones.

Michelle Masek is with Lookout Mobile Security. She says a recent survey found those around us are big snoops too.

"One in three have copped to us they have peeked into someone's phone and surprising in this survey, we found that one in 10 have admitted to looking into a coworkers' phone," she said.

So how do you stop them? Both Norton and Lookout has features allowing smartphone owners to keep track of their phones and who are using them.

"If someone gets your phone and tries to enter your passcode and they enter it wrong three times, your phone's front facing camera will snap a picture of them, privately and send you an email of the location and the person so you have a better idea of who has your phone and where it is," Masek said.

We tested the Lookout.com app. We had an intern snatch our phone, head out of the newsroom, out onto the street, and down the street to the corner of Green and Front in San Francisco. The intern tried to log in, but the phone does not open. But, we are alerted by an email. And we get a picture of the person attempting the break in and a map where they are located -- the corner of Front and Green.

San Francisco resident Alison Reimers used Lookout to track down a phone she left in a cab. We spoke by Skype.

"We drove around looking for it and chased down the cab," Reimers said. "It took us about 45 minutes to catch up to the cab. We pulled him over and looked and found my phone."

If the person snooping on your phone knows your password, what then? Who Snooped, is an app that waits for someone to sign in with the correct password. It snaps their picture. Then when you get your device back, you know who signed on last.

"It's not the phone that is really valuable anymore, even though they are expensive," said Haley. "Your personal information, your business information -- that is what's really precious and needs to be protected."

"It actually may know more about you than your best friend would. Because of that, you really need to take steps to protect your phone," said Masek.

The app 'Who Snooped' is only available for iPhones and costs 99 cents. Symantec's Norton and the Lookout.com app are available for both Android and Apple and are free, however both have premium services that offer more security options.

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