This obviously isn’t an original expression. It originates from the question, “It’s 10 PM. Do you know where your children are?” This ominous question dates back to 1967 when it was presented on television just prior to the local news. At that time, new curfew laws had gone into effect in several cities across the country due to the urban unrest and rioting during the summer of that year. As they say, “some things never change.” In 2017, we are still are experiencing similar issues associated with political unrest, terrorism, and cyber criminals. In the context of cybersecurity and the ubiquitous proliferation of mobile devices, we are borrowing the question to highlight the necessity to protect ourselves from a theft of data through our laptops and other mobile devices.
Revisiting our New Jersey history, the Newark riots were a major civil disturbance that occurred July of 1967. Over the six days of rioting, looting, and destruction, 26 people were killed and hundreds injured. Neighboring New York City was also impacted, leading to New York’s WNEW-TV coining the original phrase that summer as a reminder to parents to keep their kids off the streets.
Mobile Devices Are at Risk
Fast forward to March 2017, when a U.S. Secret Service laptop was stolen from an agent’s vehicle parked in front of a New York residence. “The U.S. Secret Service confirmed that one of their employees was the victim of a criminal act associated with the laptop theft,” said Abdul Hammad, Chief Information Security Officer for IT managed services provider powersolution.com and member of the U.S. Secret Service New York Electronic Crimes Task Force.
In this case, the agent left her personal identity verification (PIV) card, including access codes, with the computer. The PIV card is a United States federal smart card that contains the necessary data for the cardholder to be granted to federal facilities, information systems, and applications. The government’s use of mobile device management (MDM) on the laptop helped to mitigate the risk of theft, as it is a remotely managed software application that enables “wiping” the laptop (no, not with a cloth!) once it is connected to the Internet. Such MDM and additional encryption technologies are readily available for small and medium businesses (SMBs) with requirements to protect sensitive data that reside on laptops and other mobile devices.
There are risks associated not just with company-owned, but employee-owned mobile devices as well
Unfortunately, the recent Secret Service theft was not an isolated incident. According to official reports, at least 1,000 U.S. government laptops, computers, and USB flash went missing since 2015.
Exacerbating the risks associated with company-owned mobile devices is the increased proliferation of “Bring-Your-Own-Device” (BYOD) initiatives. BYOD allows employees to use personal mobile devices to perform certain work-related tasks in a convenient manner. According to industry reports, approximately 70% of businesses utilize BYOD. The rationale is that employees experience improvements in productivity and efficiency. Approximately 50% of employees use pre-installed security measures, such as passwords. However, less than20% use additional methods, such as malware (malicious software) protection. Meanwhile, the threats against mobile devices are increasing and getting more sophisticated — mandating the requirement for additional security measures.
It should be kept in mind that mobile device theft has costs associated that go beyond the hardware cost and significant loss of data and intellectual property. It also causes productivity losses associated with downtime, technical support, management time, and often legal fees.
Many SMBs do not have security policies in place for laptops and other mobile devices.
If they do, many do not enforce those policies. The owners of these companies should be aware that across the U.S. a laptop is stolen every minute and over 4 percent of company-issued smartphones are lost or stolen each year. Also, on average, 80 percent of the cost of a lost laptop is due to a data breach. In some cases, a single data breach could bankrupt an SMB.
Practical advice: Secure your devices. To prevent loss and theft of your mobile devices such as phone, laptop, or tablet keep them with you at all times, If you must leave them unattended, use physical security precautions: lock your house, your office or your office cabinet drawer. When traveling mind your devices during transportation. If staying at a hotel, place your items in a safe before leaving your room. Never leave your authorization information, such as usernames and passwords, alongside your device.
In summary, New Jersey and other SMBs should take a cue from our history and more recent cyberattacks impacting our overall security. Specifically, ubiquitous use of laptops and other mobile devices in support of our personal lives and businesses provide great benefits. However, there are associated risks of loss, theft, and data breaches that must be managed. At 10 PM, please be sure to know where your laptops are!
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