As we move to storing more and more personal and financial data on our handsets, mobile phones are becoming increasingly valuable, with some estimates suggesting that the value of the data held on typical smartphones is more than the value of the phone itself.
Earlier this month, the Home Office in the UK released a Mobile Phone Theft Ratio (in collaboration with the UK Behavioural Insights Team and in consultation with the mobile phone industry) which indicates how ‘steal-able’ your phone is. The paper highlights which handsets are most popularly targeted in the UK by thieves, how and when mobile phones are being stolen, as well as some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of becoming a victim of mobile phone theft.
Taking in to account that not all stolen phones could have plausibly been targeted by the thief (i.e. that some crime is simply opportunistic) the Mobile Phone Theft Ratio shows how likely different phones are to be targeted.
This shows how likely different phones are to be deliberately targeted, compared to the point ‘0’ on the graph, which is the average likeliness for all phones. A theft ratio of 1.2 means that a phone is 120% more likely to be stolen than if thefts were down to random chance.
The report recognises that (while unrelated to the release of this ratio) some phone manufacturers have actually implemented security improvements to devices in the past 6-12 months which have had some impact on the black market value of stolen phones. Features such as the new iOS7 system developed by Apple, and the introduction of Find My Mobile and Reactivation Lock by Samsung are two instances.
This is an interesting example of the way that security improvements made by businesses and manufacturers can have an impact on crime and support consumer protection. A similar approach was taken by the Home Office in the 1990s in response to a spike in car thefts. The publishing of the Car Theft Index led to increased car security measures such as electronic immobilisers and consequently, a reduction in car theft.