Disaster At The Airport (Or Anywhere You Set Down Your Mobile Phone)

I’m sure many of you can feel the pain of this story – or perhaps you have experienced something similar. Imagine it’s been a painfully long day at the airport, you’re exhausted, and mentally not at your best.

You’ve got a short layover and you want to squeeze in a quick battery charge so you rush to find somewhere to sit near a power outlet. You plug in your smartphone, find your next boarding pass and grab a quick drink.

When you realize your flight is boarding you jump up and rush to the gate, get settled in to your next flight, and reach to check your phone, only to realize it’s not there. It’s still innocently plugged in to the wall… right where you left it.

The scene may have been different (taxi? restaurant? hotel? rental car bus?) but the story remains the same. People lose their mobile devices all the time. I recently read an article that stated in a one year period, seven US airports found travelers left behind 8,016 mobile computing devices.

Thousands of these are laptops that were left behind as people passed through security, but 43% of them were smartphones – and only 50% of those made their way back to their rightful owners. Now just for fun, multiply those lost devices by the 503 commercial airports in the US and you get a ballpark potential of half a million “left behind” devices a year! Now how many of them do you think could have been storing critical business information?

As scary as this scenario sounds, it happens all too often. IT departments routinely investigate data breaches due to mobile device losses. Human errors occur all the time, we all make mistakes. We put down the device to pull out our wallet, and leave it on the counter.

We get off the plane, leaving it in the seat pocket. Or we leave it in a taxi. It’s happened to the best of us (I have personally lost my phone or tablet at least four times – luckily found it again three of those times!) The most important question is – do you have a plan for data retrieval or data wipe in the event that one of your mobile devices is lost or stolen?

Mobile device security is one part of an overall structure that you should be taking into account when planning your mobile deployment. A corporate strategy and a heterogeneous development platform that takes advantage of all the benefits mobile devices have to offer should be part of this structure.

As part of an overall enterprise mobility management strategy, security is a top priority for IT managers. Some of the key considerations for security are central management and monitoring, the ability to disable lost or stolen devices and the applications on them, and update software and security patches automatically. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a good place to start when thinking about your mobile device security, and how to integrate that with your development platform.

If you would like to read more I encourage you to read this whitepaper from TEC on Mobile Security. And for a good laugh on leaving your mobile device in a taxi, watch this fun video recorded as part of the “Mobile Only” series on The Guardian.

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