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UK police lobbying for passwords on all smartphones

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The Metropolitan Police force has started lobbying for all smartphones to come with preset passwords.

For over two years, the Met has been asking phone manufacturers like Samsung and Apple to introduce mandatory passwords for all new smartphones.

The Met sees this as a way of tackling handset and identity theft from the get go, as users will then be encouraged to keep their phones password locked.

According to research carried out by the Met, up to 60 per cent of phones in the UK aren’t password locked, leaving them vulnerable to unsolicited access.

“We are trying to get [passwords] to be set as a default on new phones, so that when you purchase it you will physically have to switch the password off, rather than switch it on,” said DCI Bob Mahony speaking to The Register. “We have been talking to the industry and government. This is one of the main ideas among a range of measures we are trying to push to protect personal data. All the industry has been engaged at some level – and governments too.”

Phone manufacturers have offer increased options for phone security in recent years, with some opting to introduce fingerprint sensors for phone unlocking and mobile payments, such as with the iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy S5.

“Brits seem to be slacking on passcode protection on their phones-- only 44% of Brits use passcodes, whereas Germans are nearly twice as likely to employ protection (86% use passcodes) and in the US 56% report use of PINs or passcodes”, said Thomas Labarthe, European Managing Director of technology security firm Lookout.

Mahony added that mobile phones are being sold on a global market, with stolen devices ending up halfway across the world just days after being pinched.

“Phone theft needs to be tackled from multiple angles to really put a damper on the smartphone black market. The goal is to make it harder for the bad guys to profit from stealing phones. This measure to make passcode protection mandatory, adds friction into the process for the crook.  When you remove the market incentive, you’ll see a drop off in device theft,” added Labarthe.

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