A recent experiment by Symantec involving purposefully losing smartphones revealed some interesting behaviors among the finders of those lost devices.  Operation Honey Stick was the code name for the project that was executed in early February.

Approximately 50 smartphones were randomly “lost” by Symantec experimenters.  Cities involved were Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and Ottawa.  Each smartphone was preloaded with fake data–with varying levels of sensitivity–to simulate real-life smartphones being used by busy professionals.

The good news is, about half the smartphones were returned within two weeks.  The bad news is it was only about half, and additionally, what happened along the way.

As you might guess, because these devices were formatted by Symantec, the experimenters could fully monitor exactly what each finder did with the devices.  Here are the percentages of finders who used the smartphones to access specific types of data:


64%—Social networking sites.


47%—Cloud-based documents.

45%—Salary information.

43%—Online banking information.

Given about half of the devices were returned, the better angels of our nature did prevail in some cases.  One of the emails received by the experimenters said this:

“I found your phone at the Santa Monica Pier last Thursday.  I used it for like a week but now I feel bad and want to return it.  I am really sorry.”

The results are not necessarily surprising, but they do remind us all about how important personal security is with our smartphones.  This is true for both the physical device itself and its sensitive data.

scrolling=”no” frameborder=”0″
style=”border:none; width:450px; height:80px”>

About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Tyco Integrated Security at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

Leave a Reply