Olympics Will Be Lab for Lost Phones

One company estimates there will be 67,000 lost or stolen cell phones during the upcoming Olympics in London. Chances are some have corporate data on them.

My wife loses her phone several times a day. Londoners lose an average of 50,000 phones every two weeks. During the Olympics, one company predicts that number will go up to 67,000. Chances are there will be some sensitive business information on some percentage of those phones.

Venafi, an enterprise certification vendor, says with the population in London swelling with visitors, it will increase the number of lost or stolen phones by 17,000, as good a number as any I suppose. Let’s just say, it’s going to be a lot.

Of course, with the Bring Your Own Device phenomenon, for some losing those phones is not only annoying (like when my wife loses hers), but it’s also a business issue. How do you protect the data sitting on a phone?

Gregory Webb, VP of marketing at Venafi, says people don’t take this into consideration nearly enough. “People don’t consider or take action to protect the vast volumes of information they carry and have internet access to. With the ever-shrinking boundaries between work devices and work-enabled personal devices, lost or stolen smart phones and other mobile devices that fall into the wrong hands place companies and business data at tremendous risk,” he said.

That much is clear, and has been for some time. That means as IT pros it’s up to you to find ways to protect that data. For starters, everyone should be advised in no uncertain terms to password protect their phones. Of course, this won’t stop a real hacker, but it will render the phone unusable for your average two-bit criminal type. If you can’t get past on the password screen, you have yourself a nice paperweight, dirtbag.

Next, try to ensure that a minimum amount of data is stored locally on the device. Use password-protected Apps or mobile web pages to add another layer of protection on your devices.

Try to find secure file-sharing services that give you some semblance of control on the back end, so that if your CEO loses his phone at the London Eye, you can remove access to the content immediately as though it never existed, at least for the person peaking around inside the phone.

And if all else fails, at least for your key employees with access to your most sensitive corproate information, have a nuclear option where you can remotely wipe the phone. But only use this option as a true last resort because when you wipe the phone, you not only remove all the company data, you delete the photos, address book, notes and everything else the poor sap has stored on the phone, whether it’s related to your company or not.

Chances are you’re going to have a very angry employee if you do that, so you better have a good reason.

When you have this sheer volume of lost phones in one city in one time period, it certainly forces to think about these issues because when there’s that many mobile devices being left behind, lost, stolen or whatever; IT is going to have to step in for some of them.

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