What Keeps Me Up @ Night - Mobile Part I

What Keeps Me Up @ Night and what should keep you up as well is a short series on different tech items that worry me as we march to the future. The first topic will be on mobile devices.

Mobile devices are/will be the new method for compromising infrastructures. These devices are becoming ubiquitous. Corporations and individuals are tying these devices into their corporate and personal networks. Mobile devices offer the user access to their data without regard to their geographic location.

Mobile devices have allowed organizations to downsize and improve the bottom line by allowing their workers to access and manipulate data on the corporate servers while sitting in the customers spaces. Productivity amongst the corporate sales forces has increased with the incorporation of mobile devices to their arsenal.

Now I have presented what I think are the benefits of using mobile devices. I will not go into the downside of these devices from a social aspect. I refer to the mobile device serving as the gateway for interactions with other people rather than simply talking to them face-to-face. That is for another area. My colleague/wife who is a director of social media can/will handle that topic. 

Now what I am discussing here is going to be obvious to those in the security and IT realms. This writing are for the average person that needs to be aware of the dangers of these devices and not approach them as little bundles of sunshine.

Lets first think about how some individuals use these devices. For the younger generation the mobile device is their primary connection to the world. They do not have a landline phone and the phone or tablet device may serve as the primary (read only) connection to the Internet.

The device is their gateway. Bills are probably paid using the device. Access to financial and healthcare data is through the device. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is now stored now stored on the device. The near future holds that Near Field Communication (NFC) offers the ability for the user to use these devices in lieu of a credit card.

Now the device is not just for verbal or text communications but it is handling transactional data exchanges, PII, and other sensitive data of their user. All this data stored in a convenient device that is portable. This data, if it is backed up, is probably not easily retrieved. So what happens when the device breaks. I mean the screen cracks, it gets wet, or just drops and becomes unresponsive.

The user is now up the (you know what) creek and their mobile device was the paddle. Their only paddle in this boat is the mobile device. Take a look at Apple, if you drop your iPhone in water then you are probably going to have to pay full price for a replacement. Do it twice in one year you are over a thousand dollars in replacement costs.

The younger generation, which I mean those people in the range of 15 – 25 years of age are more reliant than any other group on these devices. They are also the most likely to damage or lose their devices. This is the generation that is growing up with the digital social network. They are sharing more of their PII.

The reliance on these devices as the gateway for all electronic communications is a recipe for disaster. The realization is that this will get worse, more and more people will fall into this situation. What can we do to remediate?

The first thing I would suggest is backing up your data. Some would same decrease the reliance on the mobile devices but I feel that this trend is established.

Data must not only be backed up to some other system, device, or cloud, but there must be a mechanism for data owner to access the data in a reasonable timeframe. There are a number of commercial solutions for backing up data, such as, Carbonite, iCloud, or Amazon for example. There are a number of freeware applications that facilitate backing up data. The main thing is to pick something and use it.

When I say use it, I mean make backups on a regular schedule. Don’t allow yourself to become complacent. Now with all of that said I have to go and follow my own advice.

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