Risks of Losing Portable Devices
Last July I blogged about the risks of storing ever-larger amounts of data in ever-smaller devices.
Last week I wrote my tenth Wired.com column on the topic:
The point is that it’s now amazingly easy to lose an enormous amount of information. Twenty years ago, someone could break into my office and copy every customer file, every piece of correspondence, everything about my professional life. Today, all he has to do is steal my computer. Or my portable backup drive. Or my small stack of DVD backups. Furthermore, he could sneak into my office and copy all this data, and I’d never know it.
This problem isn’t going away anytime soon.
There are two solutions that make sense. The first is to protect the data. Hard-disk encryption programs like PGP Disk allow you to encrypt individual files, folders or entire disk partitions. Several manufacturers market USB thumb drives with built-in encryption. Some PDA manufacturers are starting to add password protection — not as good as encryption, but at least it’s something — to their devices, and there are some aftermarket PDA encryption programs.
The second solution is to remotely delete the data if the device is lost. This is still a new idea, but I believe it will gain traction in the corporate market. If you give an employee a BlackBerry for business use, you want to be able to wipe the device’s memory if he loses it. And since the device is online all the time, it’s a pretty easy feature to add.
But until these two solutions become ubiquitous, the best option is to pay attention and erase data. Delete old e-mails from your BlackBerry, SMSs from your cell phone and old data from your address books — regularly. Find that call log and purge it once in a while. Don’t store everything on your laptop, only the files you might actually need.
EDITED TO ADD (2/2): A Dutch army officer lost a memory stick with details of an Afgan mission.