Risks of Losing Portable Devices
As PDAs become more powerful, and memory becomes cheaper, more people are carrying around a lot of personal information in an easy-to-lose format. The Washington Post has a story about this:
Personal devices “are carrying incredibly sensitive information,” said Joel Yarmon, who, as technology director for the staff of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), had to scramble over a weekend last month after a colleague lost one of the office’s wireless messaging devices. In this case, the data included “personal phone numbers of leaders of Congress. . . . If that were to leak, that would be very embarrassing,” Yarmon said.
I’ve noticed this in my own life. If I didn’t make a special effort to limit the amount of information on my Treo, it would include detailed scheduling information from the past six years. My small laptop would include every e-mail I’ve sent and received in the past dozen years. And so on. A lot of us are carrying around an enormous amount of very personal data.
And some of us are carrying around personal data about other people, too:
Companies are seeking to avoid becoming the latest example of compromised security. Earlier this year, a laptop computer containing the names and Social Security numbers of 16,500 current and former MCI Inc. employees was stolen from the car of an MCI financial analyst in Colorado. In another case, a former Morgan Stanley employee sold a used BlackBerry on the online auction site eBay with confidential information still stored on the device. And in yet another incident, personal information for 665 families in Japan was recently stolen along with a handheld device belonging to a Japanese power-company employee.
There are several ways to deal with this—password protection and encryption, of course. More recently, some communications devices can be remotely erased if lost.