Your Smartphone Holds Personal Information

People Phones

You phone probably knows more about you and your personal (as well as professional) life than you think. It knows where you’ve been and who you were with, the birthday gift you bought your mother and even who you plan to vote for.

From the pre-installed apps that can count your steps to saved passwords for banking accounts and social media, smartphones have evolved from devices that make calls into digital repositories for the most intimate details of life.

Information on a typical person’s phone can be extracted to to the point that you can construct a virtual clone of that individual. Not only are our smartphones windows into our personal lives, but they are equally the windows into our professional lives as well.

And, as for Apple’s battle with the FBI shows, they have become a goldmine for investigators. The FBI has won a court order demanding Apple’s help unlocking an iPhone used by Syed Farook, who shot scores of co-workers at a December office event in San Bernardino, California in December, killing 14.

Apple is currently fighting the order, which has mounted a highly public case against what it calls government overreach and in defense of privacy. The company has warned that anything it does to override the encryption of its smartphones could help hackers.

Kids’ Locations

There’s probably more information about you on your smartphone than there is in your house. It is loaded with intimate conversations, financial data, health records and more. In many cases, they are also loaded with the location of your kids.

Out of 7.3 billion people in the world, an estimated 3.4 billion now have smartphones. And this number is expected to climb to 6.4 billion by 2021, according to communications company Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson. The phones are so powerful, they process more information faster than the computers NASA used to put humans on the moon. As a result, this has permitted them to perform a stunning array of functions and collect troves of data.

Not only is there a record of calls made and received, text messages, photos, contact lists, calendar entries, Internet browsing history and notes, there’s also access to e-mail accounts, banking institutions and websites like Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and Netflix.

Stored Passwords

Many instruct their phones to remember passwords for these apps so they can be quickly opened, but this also means they are readily available to anyone who gets into the phone. This can reveal your taste in films, shopping habits and relationships.

Some new phones come pre-loaded with a health app that automatically tracks how many steps a user takes, while others can be downloaded to pinpoint a person’s location using GPS coordinates or reveal political leanings and food preferences.

Friend Finder

Navigation programs can also serve as a record of places visited. If you use a friend finder app, the phone will know where your friends or family members are or have been.

Furthermore, smartphones quietly collect data about a user and share it with others, which helps secure apps. For instance, the phone communicates with its telecommunications service provider and its manufacturer for software updates, while apps talk back to developers.

In general, applications write a lot of data to their local storage, including user names and passwords, and possibly credit card numbers. If a hacker were able to get into your phone and get access to this data they could basically impersonate you. A lot of this information is stored unencrypted on the device. Also, other apps distribute information about your use of them to advertisers.

Sharing Data

Many users don’t realize the extent to which their phone is connected to the outside world because accounts stay automatically logged in.

Phones can also reveal many company secrets. Many companies have a mobile phone app allowing employees to connect to networks over a virtual private network.

All of this data can be valuable to police. FBI Director James Comey recently informed lawmakers that Farook’s phone could help solve the mystery to where he was for 18 minutes after the rampage. Despite scouring security cameras and interviewing witnesses, agents can’t account for where he and his wife went before they were spotted by police in a rented SUV.

According to Yorgen Edholdm, chief executive officer of cybersecurity company Accelion Inc., the ability to track, impersonate and even manipulate someone through a smartphone shows the need to be vigilant about security and cautious of overreach by the government. If the government wanted a decryption key for an individual, it would most likely be the individual’s smartphone.

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