Nearly 70% of missing devices worldwide are simply misplaced by their owners

Despite the benefits of automatic cloud backup, the risk of an unsecured device that is misplaced or stolen can be used by criminals to commit identity theft.

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With the rise of $1000+ smartphones, the pain of having a device stolen is felt more in the wallets of unfortunate device owners than anything else, considering the extent to which data on your phone is actually data in the cloud-your phone may be gone, but most of your data doesn't go with it.

Rather than being stolen, 70% of missing devices are actually misplaced by their owner, according to the Prey Mobile Theft & Loss Report published Tuesday. According to the report, users are most likely to misplace a device at home (28.10%), on the street (15.88%), at the office (13.09%) or on public transport (11.87%). Prey highlights a few of the daily life scenarios where users misplace devices, including leaving a phone on top of a car and having it fall when driving away, leaving phones in a friend's car or a cab, leaving a white phone on a white table and not being able to see it; and in one case, a respondent left their phone in the fridge after a night out.

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The report indicates that nearly three quarters (73.05%) of stolen devices are mobile phones, with nearly a quarter (24.22%) of stolen devices are laptops. Desktops-which for practicality reasons are more challenging for a thief to walk off with-were only 2.73% of stolen devices, according to the survey.

At the office, the most likely sources of theft are ex-employees who take laptops after being terminated from their jobs, though the report does highlight one case of an ex-employee who faked his death and took a corporate laptop with him.

While your photos are likely automatically backed up to the cloud, "If your phone falls into the wrong hands and doesn't have the proper protection, the thief can get more than a resell profit," said the report. "The information that an open smartphone provides is enough for a bad actor to carry out identity theft, especially when the phone line continues to be open. When that is the case, thieves can even utilize a stolen phone's line to reset passwords on high-risk logins, such as your email."

For more on securing sensitive data on corporate devices, check out TechRepublic's article on why MDM is a relic of the past for mobile security.

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By James Sanders

James Sanders is a technology writer for TechRepublic. He covers future technology, including quantum computing, AI, and 5G, as well as cloud, security, open source, mobility, and the impact of globalization on the industry, with a focus on Asia.