August 29, 2006 3:49 PM PDT

Stolen smart phones scream to be found

That ear-piercing ring you hear in a restaurant might not be somebody who forgot to set their cell phone to vibrate.

A new service called Mobile Manager, from Synchronica, can remotely make a Windows Mobile-based handset emit an "annoying and embarrassing high-pitched wail," so it can be found after it has been stolen or misplaced.

Related audio
Screaming smart phone
Hear the piercing sounds
produced by Mobile Manager.

Synchronica is a U.K.-based vendor of mobile-device management tools that aims to help victims of cell phone theft to strike back, according to a company statement sent Monday.

Thousands of mobile phones are stolen every month, according to Synchronica. If these are smart phones, they can contain sensitive information such as e-mail messages and computer files, potentially causing embarrassing data leaks.

Synchronica's mobile-phone management product can remotely lock and wipe data from Windows-based phones as soon as their owners report the loss. Companies can also turn on the "Synchronica Scream" feature.

"On average, it takes only 30 seconds for someone to notice that their phone is missing, compared to an hour for a wallet or purse," according to Synchronica. As a result, victims should be able to hear their phones scream out for them.

Devices don't have to be lost or stolen to expose sensitive data. Engineers at McLean, Va.-based Trust Digital, another mobile-security company, recently bought 10 smart phones on eBay and were able to recover 24,000 pages of data from nine of the gadgets, some of which were sold by employees of major corporations. The same kind of test is often done on used hard-disk drives.

"The salvaged data included everything from personal banking and tax information to corporate sales activity notes to even former corporate client records, product roadmaps, contact address books, computer passwords, and other private, competitive and highly damaging material," according to a Trust Digital e-mail sent Tuesday. The company plans to announce its findings on Wednesday.

Synchronica sells its Mobile Manager product to operators and businesses. The product works with Windows Mobile 2003, Pocket PC Phone Edition, and Windows Mobile 5. Support for Symbian is underway. Trust Digital's Mobile Edge product has similar features, though its Web site doesn't list a "scream" feature.

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9 comments

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Well this is good and bad
Good to know about this. I was wondering whether or not to sell my smartphone with Windows Mobile 2003 on eBay, but was afraid that even if I manually erased all the emails/txt messages and stuff on it, that it wouldn't be entirely gone.

But it's bad because in the AP article on Trust Digital's site there is no mention of a solution to completely erase the contents. This sucks.

I've got a phone I can easily get $100 for, but I won't sell it if I can't securely erase the contents.
Posted by ballssalty (219 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Correct me if I am wrong....
But if a business is using an Enterprise server from RIM (BlackBerry), the IT Dept can send a packet to wipe clean the device, which would eliminate the problem of stolen information on the device...I heard of one user who lost his device, and his IT Dept even customized a message on the screen with return information...
Posted by CMECELL (1 comment )
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OK, how stupid can we be?
HELLO IDENTITY THIEVES I'M RIGHT HERE PICK ME UP BEFORE THE LEGITIMATE OWNER RETURNS.. YOOHOOO, HELLOO

Well, you get the idea.
Posted by flitcraft33 (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Pointless
To find your phone, just call it. If someone steals it, then 30 seconds + 5 minutes to find a phone, call the carrier (after finding their number) and to activate the 'scream'. Unless the activation number is the cell number and it is an option under the menu, but most people don't seem to realize they can access their mailbox remotely.

Regardless, the scream/lock can be defeated by simply pulling the battery... When powered back on, the theif simply needs to make sure the phone never hears from the carrier again, which would require simply going to a dead zone.
Posted by hawkeyeaz1 (569 comments )
Reply Link Flag
K.I.S.S.
[b]K[/b]-eep [b]I[/b]-t [b]S[/b]-imple [b]S[/b]-tupid!!!!!

A [i]mobile[/i] phone is a telephone. :| A telephone is [b][u]JUST THAT!!![/u][/b] I don't use my cell phone for ANYTHING but a phone cuz THAT is what it [b][u]IS!!![/u][/b] :)

If you don't want sensitive personal info able to be easily retrieved, do [b]NOT[/b] put it on an electronic/mobile device of ANY kind. DUH-UH!!!!!! :| If you do, you're a "Dee-Dee-Dee"! (ever hear of latin comedian Carlos Mencia???)

If you don't want your hard drive [i]mined[/i] after you no longer want/need it, then [b]DESTROY[/b] the thing in a way that it will [u]never ever[/u] be readable again. A plasma cutter comes to mind. ]:) ;)

So, KISS ...muwah!!! :D
Posted by btljooz (401 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Thanks...
Thanks for informing me about your great ideas. I'm so dumb and you are so smart. The different faces really help also. Now I will go remove all my contacts from my phone and memorize them all...
Posted by Gasaraki (183 comments )
Link Flag
We are this stupid...
Are we really this stupid where we need a smart phone that screams when you loose it? What's next, battery powered scissors?

Wait, don't they actually have those?

Blast!
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A better idea
How about a phone that stars screaming the moment you start walking away from it. This way when you drop it or put it down for a moment, the second you start moving away from it, it'll start screaming, "Hey, moron, you're just going to leave me here?"

8)
Posted by thedreaming (573 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wireless/Mobile Security
Lately there has been a lot of buzz lately on the personal information that can be recovered from phones sold on eBay.

In Hong Kong, a high profile business man who lost his cellular phone with video of his movie star wife taking a shower. The taxi driver that found the phone apparently tried to blackmail him, and ended up posting the video on the 'net.

With camera phones all over the place and drafts of documents being sent between blackberries all the time, I'm sure everyone has something on their phone, blackberry, or wireless PDA that would best be kept personal.

A new product that is currently in beta, but looks like an outstanding tool, is the Mbience Security Suite (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.mbiencegroup.com/" target="_newWindow">http://www.mbiencegroup.com/</a>).

It offers syncronisation (S-Sync), encryption, and most importantly, the ability to destroy remotely the contents of the device if it is lost (Q-Switch). Once the critical info (like mobile wallet info) is destroyed their L-Report function will report the loss to the credit card company or IT security group.

It looks like a comprehensive solution, and worth taking a look at.
Posted by brwong (1 comment )
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