Mobility and Your Privacy

By  Andrew Seybold — May 05, 2011

We all carry mobile devices today, many of us more than one. Notebooks, smartphones, and tablets also have company files and other enterprise-related information on them. Losing this data or having it compromised either because the device itself has been lost or stolen or because someone has hacked the phone or the information stored in the cloud could be both costly and embarrassing.

Password protection is the basic level of security that should be implemented on any mobile device. The next step is remote wipe. Finally, it is most prudent to encrypt your data not only on your notebook but also on any storage devices you may have plugged in.

Many people carrying newer smartphones don’t seem to be aware of a new danger: some devices can also act as a Wi-Fi access point (AP), permitting other devices to connect to them via Wi-Fi to share the wide-area connection. This is convenient but dangerous, as anyone can connect to your device when this option is enabled.

Wi-Fi is now virtually everywhere, and most systems are open and no longer require a sign-on. The downside of this openness is that such APs can be compromised; your device is accessible to those who know what they are doing. Even if your company requires you to use a VPN (virtual private network) and/or data encryption of some type, you still must gain access to the Wi-Fi network in the open, giving someone the ability to compromise your device.

Within some industries, security is mandated by law. These laws regulate the way you secure your data within the enterprise, in the cloud, across the airlink, and on your devices. You and your company need to be fully aware of these requirements and how to stay compliant.

Privacy and security go hand in hand. By not taking security precautions, you are inviting others to access your information and perhaps use it, sell it, or simply cause mischief with it. But security is also a moving target. As we get better at it, hackers get better at breaking it, which, of course, threatens our privacy.

However, hackers and others are also turning their eyes toward the world of wireless. Network operators are taking steps to ensure that they are protecting our privacy and our security as best they can. However, many devices, applications, and information are now accessible off the network. While our information travels via the network, it is not through a secure store or location. Network operators can only do so much to help keep us safe; the rest is up to us and our companies. If we think our privacy is safe and that security and  privacy breaches will only happen to the other guy, we are asking for trouble.

andrew m. seybold Andrew M. Seybold is CEO & principal analyst with Andrew Seybold, Inc., a wireless industry research firm. Visit www.andrewseybold.com for more information.

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