The American magazine "Consumer Reports" revealed that some 3.1 million Americans had their mobile phones stolen in 2013.
The magazine described this total as a huge increase from 2012 when 1.6 million people in the US became victims of smartphone theft. A report by the magazine also noted that US consumers lost and never recovered 1.4 million smartphones in 2013 compared to 1.2 million in 2012.
The report on the sharp rise in mobile phone thefts comes after government and private sector stakeholders agreed to install a "kill switch" on all mobile phones made in the USA beginning July 2015.
Consumer Reports said Americans can guard their phones against thieves and that all Americans need do is to implement these steps. Americans need to be more vigilant because the survey revealed that 34 percent of respondents took no security precautions whatever to protect their mobile phones.
Of those that did protect their phones, only 36 percent set a screen lock with a 4-digit pin. While apparently disheartening, this percentage is a 50 percent increase from 2012 and seems to show that consumers are becoming more vigilant about security.
A scant 22 percent installed software that could locate their lost or stolen phone. Far fewer installed an anti-virus or remote wipe app, used a PIN longer than 4 digits or enabled encryption. Only 29 percent backed-up their smartphone data to a computer or the cloud.
Last week, the CTIA-The Wireless Association, the industry trade group representing the international wireless telecom industry, entered a voluntary agreement with major mobile manufacturers, providers and operating system makers to include anti-theft measures in smartphones made in the USA.
Signatories to the agreement are Apple, Google, Microsoft, Motorola Mobility, Samsung, HTC, Huawei, Nokia, Asurion, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon. The agreement intends to protect consumers from smartphone theft and will also give companies the ability to innovate.
The signatories agreed that starting July 2015, smartphones manufactured for retail sale in the USA will have a baseline antitheft tool, otherwise known as a "kill switch," either pre-installed or downloadable. For devices made before July 2015, CTIA has assembled a list of apps consumers can use to locate, lock or disable lost or stolen devices.
The kill switch will be provided to consumers free of charge. Once activated after a theft, it will set in motion a series of security measures intended to protect the owner of a stolen mobile phone.
The kill switch will remotely erase personal information such as contacts and emails from a stolen mobile phone. It also needs to make the mobile phone inoperable to unauthorized users.