Anyone with doubts about BYOD look away now. A new survey has found that almost half of mobile users still employ no security despite the fact that many of devices are used to access and store corporate email.

Surveys of mobile device security are easy prey for nay-sayers, routinely showing relatively low levels of awareness about mobile data. Sophos’s survey of 1,008 UK consumers outlines the issue without shedding much new light on the reasons behind this.

Forty-two percent had lost or left a device (mostly but not exclusively smartphones) without security in place, while 20 percent said their devices were used to access email. An identical 20 percent kept personal data such as national insurance numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth on their smartphones.

One in ten reckoned their devices would have revealed information such as PIN numbers and credit cards.

Teens were far more likely to lose an unsecured device than older users, confirming the mundane truism that the young think less about consequences until they have experienced them. Only those at or near pensionable age matched them for lack of security, a phenomenon usually explained as being a generational lack of familiarity with the technology among older people.

What does all this mean and why don’t vendors spend more time investigating why mobile security remains a low priority for some sections of the user base even where business data is at risk?

“Most concerning for businesses is that this lack of awareness will inevitably seep into the corporate environment.  Indeed, the research already shows that corporate email - on lost and potentially unsecured devices - opens up a potential security hole in the infrastructure,” said Sophos director of technology, James Lyne.

“Businesses too should ensure their traditional IT security educational policies extend to laptops and mobile devices. Mobile manufacturers should also be challenged to make these devices more secure out of the box," Said Lyne.

The last point is an interesting one. Out of the box, mobile data security remains poorly designed in a surprising number of cases.

Only a few weeks ago, a report from consultancy Context Information Security picked numerous holes in the security design of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, at least as far as businesses were concerned. Apple’s iPad and RIM’s PlayBook achieved better scores but even in these devices some failings were found.

There is a reason for this. Companies such as Samsung and even Apple are companies that sell gadgets to consumers. Security has not appeared a high priority based on assumptions about the usefulness of such features for consumers.

But if BYOD is a real phenomenon – and there is ample evidence that it is – then consumer devices are now dual-purpose and need to be designed to meet the security needs of businesses.