It is easy to forget that the cigarette box-sized device in your pocket is actually a computer more powerful than the one that sent Apollo 11 to the moon. Smartphones, along with tablet computers, e-readers and wireless laptops, now hold some of our most priceless assets: photos, home videos, work samples, financial spreadsheets, not to mention books, movies, every album by the Rolling Stones, games and more. Plus critical access to our banking, email and credit information. The total value of a wired American's digital life? Nearly $55,00 on average, according to a new survey from security firm McAfee (INTC).

That value is only poised to get higher as digital consumers move more and more of their media -- and personal -- lives into the cloud. And as the value goes up, so does consumers' vulnerability to hacking, theft and financial loss.

Our digital belongings, which have high financial and emotional value, are often spread out over several devices -- such as a phone, a tablet and a music device. A quarter of global Internet users surveyed have at least five digital devices in their households, and 60% owned at least three, the survey showed. The survey included more 3,000 Internet users in 10 countries. Respondents said they had 2,777 digital files stored on at least one device on average.

"We use smartphone and tablets the same way we use our PCs," Gary Davis, director of consumer product marketing at McAfee told DailyFinance. "But those devices are not treated with same security as a PC and they are even more vulnerable."

Mobile devices are more vulnerable than home computers because they are used in a wider variety of locations and on a greater number of networks. With hundreds of thousands of apps available, the sheer variety of offerings opens a slew of possible gateways for nefarious software. The growing trend toward mobile payments and banking -- last week, Google launched its own version of an e-wallet -- adds another potential layer of vulnerability.

The threats to our information lives are diverse. In the realm of the strictly physical, damage to a device could potentially mean losing thousands of dollars of stored files. The loss or theft of a mobile device would have the same impact, as well as opening up the possibility of identity theft. But a growing danger involves invisible threats -- aka malware. Under this heading fall viruses, spyware and other nastiness embedded into seemingly harmless free apps that can be remotely "weaponized" by a hacker to trawl for select data and access accounts through your phone. According to McAfee data, 2 million new pieces of malware are discovered each month. Last year, malicious programs and sites cost U.S. consumers more than $2.3 billion, according to Consumer Reports.

"The hacking mentality is to get their app on as many devices as possible," says Davis. "[It could be a] free app that could passes [app store] scrutiny and gets in as many devices as possible. Then [hackers] can weaponize it. The point to consumers is, make sure you protect that device."

As Android devices gain market share, the amount of malware aimed at that operating system is also growing. McAfee reports that Android malware jumped 76% in the last 100 days, putting devices with that operating system at higher risk.

Increasingly, consumer security software is designed to fend off new threats -- and keep your files and personal information safe. McAfee has released a new security system, McAfee All Access ($99.99) designed to protect a range of Internet-connected devices from viruses and malware. Consumer review site reviews other security software systems, and other mobile security systems include Lookout and Norton Mobile Security.

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Five comments. An excellent indication of the state of mankind. You would think that by now people would begin to wake up to what has and is being created. Instead they continue to dance to the music of the pied pipers. When they reach the final destination, people won't have any idea of how they got there. I don't listen to the pied pipers anymore, I listen to the tunes played by my grandparents and parents, the past generations. Practical knowledge and common sense are as rare as American jobs today. Do you think that those items might be related?

September 29 2011 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

maybe it would be better to go back to clay tablets

September 29 2011 at 7:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Planned obsolesence. My digital life just keeps getting more and more costly. Mcafee or createafee slows me down and pops up all day reminding me to scan. Ya'll think we are going to keep putting up with this ^&$@# you created? Maybe we all ought to take a long long long long holiday from the digital world and make them remember who the customer is. I really don't need this $#^&%$. I think we are sold a load of *&$# each day.

September 28 2011 at 1:39 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jkosters's comment

One of the biggest challengs to solving this problem is the inherent trade-off between security and usability.

Gnerally speaking, the higher the degree of security offered by a particular tool or solution, the more difficult it is to understand and implement by non-expert users (the vast majority). This is not uncommon with new technologies. Think how difficult it was to use a PC 30 years ago with all the bizarre commands that were anything but intuitive.

Lots of companies both big and small are dedicating significant resources to trying to solve this problem. If it were easy, it would have already been solved. Such is the nature of innovation. The more important and more difficult to solve is the problem you are working on, the bigger are the rewards for developing a solution. On the other hand, the lesser is the probably of being successful

September 29 2011 at 11:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to warrenbent's comment

One other thing to keep in mind is that this risk is largely a theoretical one.

I don't mean to imply that nobody has been victimized. However, think about how many times you pick up a local newspapaer and read about fellow citizens who have been attacked in this manner. Or hear from friends or family memebers who have been similarly attacked. Or hear about such attacks at the office water cooler.

Compare that to how often you hear about a home or business being burglarized. People don't justlock their doors because it's easy to do (although that helps), they also lock them because of their acquaintence with real world experiences that illustrate the benefit of doing so.

Most of us don't have acquaintance with real world experiences illustrating the benefits of securing our mobile devices. As a result, the incentive to do so isn't nearly as great.

September 29 2011 at 3:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

Walmartyrs rejoice... less boatloads of bucks, going away. Charity begins at home... homegrown products, will just have to do.

September 28 2011 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When some of the biggest banks and even government agencies with multiple layers of security and the best IT minds working for them get occasionally hacked, it's obvious that one's personal data is also at risk. While "snale mail" requires a bit more effort no one, to my knowledge, has ever been hacked paying their bills by check and the cost of first class postage. All my sensitive information is kept on an off-line, stand alone PC. Nothing goes on line I wouldn't care to see in tomorrow's newspaper.

September 28 2011 at 11:14 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to joethightwad's comment

No one has ever been hacked using snail mail? Are you serious?

Like no criminal has ever intercepted a credit card offer from a victim's mail box and opened an account in the victim's name?

The USPS website includes a page titled, "Mail Friad Schemes" with a bout 50 seprate links details various types of fraud.

September 29 2011 at 11:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to warrenbent's comment

Have you ever tried to open an account using just a so-called "pre-approved" credit card offer? Unlrss one has been careless with their garbage by discarding bank statements, brokerage statements, old checks or other documents with sensitive personal identifiers such as Sociial Security numbers, the attempt will get nowhere. Buy a paper shredder.

September 29 2011 at 3:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

Ummmm, anybody who can get a credit card offer from your mailbox, can probably get that other info there too.

Again, that's why the USPS website includes an extensive section on Mail Fraud Schemes.

September 30 2011 at 1:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down


September 28 2011 at 10:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mobile Devices were designed for Elementary and High School Students....................otherwise they are are
a waste of time and effort................................and very expensive !

September 28 2011 at 8:03 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply