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BT: Research Reveals At Least One In Five Second-Hand Mobile Devices Still Contain Sensitive Information; Today's Sophisticated Devices Exacerbating The Problem Of Keeping Sensitive Information Safe
[September 25, 2008]

BT: Research Reveals At Least One In Five Second-Hand Mobile Devices Still Contain Sensitive Information; Today's Sophisticated Devices Exacerbating The Problem Of Keeping Sensitive Information Safe

(M2 PressWIRE Via Acquire Media NewsEdge)

New research from BT, the University of Glamorgan in Wales and Edith
Cowan University in Australia has revealed that a significant number of
hand-held communication devices which are bought second-hand still
contain sensitive company and personal information.

The survey of over 160 used gadgets found a range of information
including salary details, financial company data, bank account details,
sensitive business plans, details of board meetings and personal
medical details.

The devices containing the greatest volume of information were
discarded Blackberry devices which in a number of cases were left
unprotected, despite having security features like encryption built in.
Forty-three per cent of those examined contained information from which
individuals, their organisation or specific personal data could be
identified creating a significant threat to both the individual and the
organisation. It is thought that this is the result of the increasing
adoption and use of this type of device by organisations to support
increasingly mobile workforces.

Whilst being far less sophisticated, 23 per cent of the mobile phones
examined still contained sufficient individual information to allow the
researchers to identify the phone's previous owner and employer.

In one example, a Blackberry was examined that had been used by the
sales director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) of a major
Japanese corporation. It was possible to recover the call history, the
address book, the diary and the messages from the device and the
information that was contained in these provided:

The business plan of the organisation for the next period

The identification of the main customers and the state of the
relationships with them

The relationship of the individual with their support staff

Details of the personal life of the individual including details of
their children and their occupations, movements, marital status,
addresses, appointments and addresses for his dental and medical care

Bank account numbers and bank sorting code

Car make and registration index

Dr Andy Jones, head of information security research at BT, who led the
survey, said: "Given the level of exposure that the subject of security
and identity theft has recently received, and the availability of
suitable tools to ensure the safe disposal of information, it is
difficult to understand why organisations are not taking the necessary
precautions when disposing of hand-held devices. These everyday items
now contain sophisticated digital memory capable of storing huge
amounts of sensitive data. Organisations must ensure that adequate
procedures are in place to destroy any data and to check that these
procedures are effective."

Dr. Iain Sutherland, who leads the research team at the University of
Glamorgan, added: "Many large organisations currently dispose of
obsolete hand-held devices by donating them to charities. It was
discovered during the course of the research that a number of these
charities then pass on a large percentage of these devices to places
like China and Nigeria, both of which are regarded as posing a real
threat to the security of information."

The research highlights a lack of awareness amongst businesses about
the amount of data that can be retrieved from mobile devices. The
situation is made more complex as most of the devices are provided by a

supplier as part of a mobile communications service. When they reach
the end of their effective life, in most cases somewhere between one
and two years, they have little or no residual value and they are not,
in most cases, given any consideration with regard to the data that
they may still contain.

For a significant proportion of the devices that were examined, the
information had not been effectively removed and as a result, both
organisations and individuals were exposed to a range of potential
crimes. These organisations had also failed to meet their statutory,
regulatory and legal obligations.

The research was undertaken at the BT Centre for Information and
Security Systems Research, the University of Glamorgan and in Australia
at Edith Cowan University in Perth. The results were based on the
examination of 161 hand-held devices that were purchased from on-line
auction sites, commercial organisations involved in the supply of
second hand hand-held devices and auctions or were donated to the
research by SIMS Lifecycle Services.

About BT

BT is one of the world's leading providers of communications solutions
and services operating in 170 countries. Its principal activities
include the provision of networked IT services globally; local,
national and international telecommunications services to our customers
for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband and internet
products and services and converged fixed/mobile products and services.
BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services,
Openreach, BT Retail and BT Wholesale.

In the year ended 31 March 2008, BT Group plc's revenue was GBP20,704
million with profit before taxation of GBP2,506 million.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT
Group and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT
Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New
York. For more information, visit

CONTACT: BT Group Newsroom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7356 5369
Justine Manche, BT Global Services PR
Tel: +44 (0)20 7356 5371
Tom Gilbert, Fishburn Hedges
Tel: +44 (0)20 7544 3084 or

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