VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – If you lost your smartphone, would you expect to get it back? Would you expect all your personal and business information to remain safe?

News1130 is following an experiment in which phones were “lost” in major North American cities and then remotely tracked.

“So much of our lives, both personal and work lives, are now on a little device you can carry around in your pocket or hand — we wanted to see what would happen if that device was lost,” says tech blogger Kevin Haley with Symantec. “Would people find it, attempt to return it, would they look at the information that was on that device?”

Symantec teamed up with Security Perspectives Inc. to launch The Smartphone Honeystick Project. The experiment involved 50 smartphones planted with a collection of simulated corporate and personal data along with the capability to remotely monitor what happened to them once they were found.

The phones were then intentionally lost in high traffic locations such as elevators, malls, food courts, and public transit stops in Ottawa, New York City, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“What we found is that in only 50 per cent of the cases did people attempt to return the phone,” says Haley. “And in almost all of the cases, 96 per cent, people actually went on to the phones to look at this personal and work data. We had a file called ‘private picks’, we had applications that would allow you to log into social networking sites, we had a bank application. For corporate data we had files labelled as ‘HR Salaries’ and a ‘Remote Admin Tool.”

More than 40 per cent of the finders tried to access personal banking accounts using the fake apps, 60 per cent attempted to view social media information and email, and 80 per cent of finders tried to access corporate information.

So are people bad? Not necessarily. Haley feels it is just human nature. When temptation is put in front of them, people tend to bite the apple (some take many bites).

“I think the lesson here is that curiosity is extremely strong and it drives people to search around and look at your personal information if you’ve lost your cellphone. People really need to protect that information,” he adds.

The first thing you should do, and the simplest, is to put a password on the phone to restrict access to it. There is also software available that can remotely wipe all the information on your phone or track it using the device’s GPS.

Haley says these three easy practices and tools can eliminate the majority of the risk involved with losing a smartphone.