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How to stop data theft on the move

December 05, 2006 12:50 IST
Over the last six months, Mumbaites have forgotten 32,970 mobile phones, 349 laptops and 349 USB (Universal Serial Bus) sticks/thumb drives at the back of licensed taxi cabs - and these are just the ones that have been reported as lost.

Mumbai is not a lone case. A survey of taxi drivers (2006-07) from 11 major cities across the world, conducted by Pointsec Mobile Technologies, reveals that thousands of valuable mobile phones, handheld devices, laptops and USB Sticks are forgotten in taxis every day. Of all the cities, London emerges as the capital with the most forgetful population losing 54872 mobile phones.

In case of handheld devices such as Pocket PCs being lost, London (4,718) ranked highest once again, followed by Washington (2,260), Munich (1902) and Berlin (1125).

The number of lost laptops was also highest in London (3,179) with Munich in the second place with 355 followed by Mumbai in third spot with 349.

Peter Larsson, CEO, Pointsec Mobile Technologies said: "With the storage capacity of mobile devices increasing, it is important for users to recognise the need to protect critical data.

The Taxi Survey conducted by us highlights the need to educate the users about the value of data stored and how it could be misused in case adequate security tools such as encryption are not used to protect the same."

For instance, mobile phones now are capable of storing up to 4 GB memory. That's equivalent to physically storing data on 400 boxes of paper in nine filing cabinets with the capacity to retain four million emails besides thousands of songs.

Have you ever thought what a thief with access to these details could do? The loss could mean bank account details, personal photos, personal/business contacts, personal/business emails, personal / business diary, passwords / PIN numbers or corporate information - all of which could cripple you in your personal or professional capacity.

Passwords and firewalls are just not enough. Besides, Windows does provide data encryption facilities but experts question its efficacy. A Gartner study warns that the Windows password can be cracked in as little as 14 seconds. Besides, with less than $100, anyone can purchase password-recovery tools on the Internet.

If the data on your old hard disk is not encrypted, ensure that you re-format the device at least eight times before you dispose it, or use professional "wiping-clean" software to erase the data.

If the information is very sensitive and you want to ensure that not even the cleverest hacker will ever be able to read the old hard drive, burn it!

However, prevention may be better than cure. With Windows Vista, Microsoft is expected to tighten data protection measures. There are other solutions too.

The Pointsec solution, for instance, currently targets only enterprises. Other players globally include Winmagic (for full-disk encryption) and Credent and Bluefire Security Technologies.

BS Reporter in Mumbai
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