Mobile Device Security

Mobile device security is becoming a hot topic, so I was highly interested to read the results of recent research into the causes of mobile phone losses by It claims that a staggering 885,000 mobiles, worth around £342 million, are accidentally flushed down the lavatory (that’s the posh word) each year. This seems to be the biggest cause of such losses, followed by 810,000 losses in pubs, 315,000 left in the back of taxis, 225,000 left on buses, 116,000 in the laundry and 58,500 chewed by pet dogs.

A survey carried out a few years ago by Pointsec, a security vendor showed that in the last half of 2004, 63,135 mobiles, 5,838 PDAs and 4,973 laptops were left behind in London taxis. This now looks like small beer compared to the lavatory problem. And of course it’s likley that at least some mobiles left behind in taxis and buses might be recoverable.

This is a fascinating insight and a helpful input for designing security education campaigns. Mobile devices are becoming smaller and more powerful, so we need to take more and more action to minimise the business damage from accidental losses. These days a single loss can compromise gigabytes of sensitive data, enable unauthorised access to corporate networks and ruin the week for a senior executive. Not to mention the replacement and recovery costs.

So what can we do to prevent such losses? Waterproof coatings might be a good start. Perhaps coupled with some kind of elasticated lanyard to enable the device to be more easily fished out of the lavatory bowl. Or some sort of collapsible tray attached to the belt that opens out when you relieve yourself. In-built automatic location sensors might also help track down the device in the plumbing. Training courses in how to use facilities safely might be the next step. The mind boggles.

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Loss of data can be more expensive than the items themselves. Even if it not the loss of data it can be the clues and hints about the organisation that would be invaluable in the wrong hands. It could be smarter if a device was a nodeless entity, with no working information and encrypted access clues. Removing the what, the where, the who and the how. leaves companies with only the loss of the device. Toilet proofing? Something that may sell... but I would not fancy getting into. No pun intended. Also as I was reading this article and it sounds like a spend spend spend spiral. Buy more devices, buy more security, buy more safegards. The global warming debate still rages but can the ever increasing demand for consumerables be part of that? What is the energy cost of a new device. Chances are the holder of the device has their own one at home that could easily do the job but is not under the companies control. Could we find a way of reducing this continual double buying?