Secure smartphones

VANITA PRASAD
Last updated 11:45 17/01/2013
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VANITA PRASAD

HOLD TIGHT: Those with smartphones are urged to stay vigilant against thieves, even when walking through town.

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An unsuspecting couple pictured on a stolen iPhone has caught the imagination of West Aucklanders and highlighted the need for smartphone security.

The iPhone, which retails for about $1000, was stolen on December 5 during a house burglary in Avondale.

The owner had installed a programme that emails new photos taken on the device back to him, undetected by the alleged thieves.

Whether the pair was caught red-handed or simply caught in the middle has yet to be determined by police still investigating the matter.

The photo was shared more than 8000 times from the Auckland Police Facebook site. It's generated many leads from the public, Avondale police intelligence officer Logan Ewers says.

"We're following lines of inquiry which are so far proving to be right on the money."

Figures released by the Market intelligence firm IDC late last year showed New Zealand's adoption of smartphones has risen dramatically, from 13 per cent to 44 per cent of the country's households in just a year.

Typical smartphones retail between $129 to $1400, making them a popular target for theft, senior sergeant Julian Conder says.

He says people are complacent about where they use and leave their phones.

"People go into their own little world when they're on the phone without being aware about who's around."

Phones are often snatched from people's hands as they're being used, or taken when left unattended, Mr Conder says.

New Lynn police watchhouse manager Warren Strand says about 90 per cent of those reporting stolen smartphones are not using protective applications.

"With the Find My Iphone app we could find out in real time where a phone is. We had a lady come in to the station and we could see what she thought was her stolen phone moving on the map."

Mr Strand says that type of technology is invaluable.

"If we can get an address that the phone is at it certainly gives us means to visit the address . . . sometimes it's as simple as calling the phone when we're there."

Mr Conder says without this information it's very hard for police to locate the stolen property, which typically gets sold very quickly.

" The other day we had a guy who stole a $400 phone from West Wave aquatic centre and sold it for $20. He didn't need the phone, he just wanted the cash."

Western Computers owner Scott Trask says apps are helpful but it's still important to record your phone's serial number.

"With every good app there will be aftermarket apps that people will make to disable the security apps.

"If you have a third party app, keep it hidden so that thieves can't find it to disable it and make sure you get the serial number. It's more unique than a sim card."

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