How IT Can Make Mobile Devices Less Attractive to Data Thieves

Posted on February 12, 2015

News broke this week that smartphone kill switches have made smartphone theft much less attractive to thieves.

The kill switches that allow users to remotely wipe phones of personal data and make them unusable are behind plummeting cell phone theft rates according to a new article in Fast Company. Smartphone thefts in San Francisco, New York City, and London have nose-dived as politicians have rallied behind the idea of using kill switches to make smartphones a less appealing theft target. California became the first state to require that smartphones have kill switches installed by July 2015, while Minnesota has also passed a law requiring them to be installed next year.

Overall, smartphone theft dropped by 27% in San Francisco, 16% in New York City, and by a solid 50% in London. "The problem with kill switches is that to be an effective protection for corporate data, they have to be turned on," says Jared Hansen, CEO and founder of secure mobile printing leader Breezy. "Right now, all phones are equipped with kill switches " and even if the phone has a kill switch, users have to activate it and use it in order for it to be effective."

Kill switches have been installed in iOS devices since 2013, and iPhone theft has declined 40% in San Francisco and 25% in New York city since the switches were installed. Samsung added kill switches a year later, in August 2014, and the latest version of the Google Android operating system Lollipop also includes a kill switch. Windows phones get kill switches in July 2015 when Microsoft releases a new software update.

Despite widespread adoption of kill switches by device manufacturers, only 1.6% of Android users run Lollipop, and Samsung's kill switch is installed only on Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4 phones through specific carriers. 97% of iOS devices run an operating system with a kill switch, but it is not turned on by default and requires a connection to the iCloud service.

Encrypt Data to Protect It on Mobile Devices

Gartner Senior Vice President Van Barker told The Server Side this week that delivering internally facing mobile applications has the potential to greatly increase productivity, but it comes with a dangerous downside as well, and that the downside has the potential for damaging and embarrassing security breaches. "Data leakage is a big issue with mobile applications, or at least, it's potentially a big issue," Baker said.

The mobile and wireless analyst explained that if an employee is doing work on their cell phone, be it responding to email or filling out an expense report, their interaction with the corporate back end is only as secure as the public network over which they are communicating. "If you're sending sensitive information to mobile applications, you want to make sure that data is encrypted in transit," Baker said.

In addition to encrypting the network, data stored on mobile devices must be encrypted as well, he added. "If data resides on the mobile device you want to make sure that data is encrypted in order to protect the intellectual property of the organization," said Baker.

Hansen agrees. "On-device encryption is essential to foiling man-in-the-middle attacks as well as protecting company data in the event a device is stolen or lost," he says. "It's very easy to connect a smartphone or tablet to a desktop computer running a suite of mobile device cracking tools, and all of the plain text data on the device can be quickly copied. Don't let that happen to your sensitive company data. Use encryption."

Breezy's secure mobile printing technology provides on-device encryption, and is fully integrated with EMM providers like AirWatch, Citrix, Good Technology, IBM (Fiberlink's MaaS360), and MobileIron and many others, and can add an extra layer of protection to the mobile devices that connect to your network or store your data. For more information on mobile device security and secure mobile printing, watch this video from Breezy, download The Definitive Guide to Mobile Printing, a free ebook, or click here to schedule a Breezy demo now.

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