President Obama is still awaiting the security enhancements
to his Blackberry that allows him to securely send/receive email and voice
communications. Officially, the
government uses the Sectéra Edge smartphone to securely communicate. While this should be the standard for ALL
paranoid cell phone users; it may be overkill for the average user if the
$3000+ price tag isn’t prohibitive.
While the casual cell phone user doesn’t require military
grade security, the proliferation of smartphones or feature phones raises the
risk of identity theft or social engineering.
Today’s cell phones are no longer restricted to making and receiving
calls. They are a major component of our
everyday lives. They hold our address
books, calendars, email, music and much more.
While it is very convenient to hold all of this information in a single
place, it poses a risk if they are lost or stolen.
Millions of cell phones are lost or stolen each year. Think about the important information you
store on your phone. Names and numbers of
friends and relatives; passwords; sensitive emails or text messages. Not only does it expose this information to
strangers, it is also very inconvenient for you. Are you backing up this information? While not all phones are capable of doing
backing-ups or syncing data, the ones that do…should.
Spend a moment to review the information on your phone. What could a stranger learn about you and
your contacts if they had access? At a
minimum, they would be able to harass them.
At worse, they may have access to their physical location. Is your phone tied to social networking sites
such as Facebook or My Space? How would
you feel if a stranger or criminal had access to your friends’ and families’ contact
information, pictures, etc. Personally,
it creeps me out to think that someone might browse photos of my wife and
So what should you do about this? First, learn to live with a password to
access your phone. It is inconvenient at
times to “log-in” to your phone but the level of protection that even a 4 digit
password or pin provides is well worth the extra keystrokes. My phones are set up so that calls can be
made and received; however, access to address books and calendars, etc. are
Does your phone support remote wipe? Enterprise Blackberries allow system
administrators to delete content of lost or stolen cell phones, but what
protection do you have if you are an iPhone, Palm or Windows Mobile user? Utilities like Teallock for Palm allows you
to send a “self destruct” text message to your phone wiping all information from
the phone and memory cards.
Finally, be aware of where you leave your cell phone. With cell phone insurance and “new every so many year” plans; people forget the value of the phone and particularly the information it contains. Would you leave your wallet or purse lying around even if it was not filled with cash? I often see phones left unattended on desks as I stroll through the hallways in the office. I’ve seen them left in cars to charge. I have even seen them dangling from a wall charger, unattended no less, at the airport. The unfortunate reality is that a lost cell phone is not just a hassle for the owner, like with a wallet or purse, but also for the friends and families of those who are “lucky” enough to be in your contact list!