'Digital amnesia' haunts smartphone users

Smartphone users demand lower cost data. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Smartphone users demand lower cost data. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - An increasing number of consumers are suffering digital amnesia where they can't remember key data entrusted to mobile devices, a new survey has found.

According to a survey conducted by security firm Kaspersky Lab, only a third of mobile users could remember their partner's phone number and 53% could not recall their children's phone number.

Kaspersky has labelled the phenomenon 'digital amnesia' because modern smart devices have made it easier to trust technology to remember data that we take for granted.

While 90% of survey respondents could not recall their number for their children's schools and 51% drew a blank with their place of work, 60% could remember the phone number of their childhood home.

"The findings suggest that our inability to retain important information is due to the fact that we are handing over responsibility for remembering it to digital devices such as smartphones. Just under half (43%) of the youngest consumers surveyed (16 to 24 year-olds) say that their smartphone holds almost everything they need to know or recall," Kaspersky said.

Data loss

However, the company also sounded a warning that despite the critical interaction with smartphones, few consumers bothered to protect the data.

Some consumers store ATM PIN codes on their smartphones. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

The security firm found that only 36% of people installed a layer of security on smartphones and 23% do the same for tablets.

"We discovered that the loss or compromise of this precious information would not just be an inconvenience; it would leave many people deeply distressed," said David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab.

Many mobile operating systems provide automated backups of data such as contacts, text messages, email and multimedia content

Despite this, once a hacker compromises a device's account, their usual operating procedure is to take over email and social media accounts to exploit the victim.

The survey found that 40% of adults describe their emotion as "overwhelming sadness" if they had to lose the data on a device. Twenty-five percent said they would be "frantic".

The survey was carried out in six European countries among 6 000 participants, aged 16 and older.


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