Smartphone Security: Data Breaches And Pawnshops.

Sometimes, an epiphany hits you out of the blue.  Of course, that’s why it’s called an epiphany, but still… if one lives or visits an environment like Las Vegas, it’s kind of hard to understand why my epiphany didn’t come a lot sooner.  But it hit me once I started reading the subtitle to an article by, “Two of the UK’s largest pawn brokers are selling second-hand phones which still contain texts…”

This is the sort of data breach that services like AlertBoot are trying to prevent, via the use of smartphone encryption and other forms of endpoint protection.

Device Data Breach: Lost, Missing, Stolen, or… Handed Over?

Many data breaches are due to an unlucky event.  For example, a laptop computer gets stolen from someone’s car.  A smartphone is left behind on the train.  But there are many instances where a data breach takes place because the device’s owner consciously decides to give up the goods.

Take laptops, for instance.  You’d imagine that if someone offered to return a laptop, the owner would jump at the chance to recover it.  Turns out that’s not always the case.  I’ve heard over the years of instances where a laptop left behind at a hotel couldn’t be returned to the owner because the owner didn’t want it anymore (the hotel obviously has a way to track down the client).

The machine was insured, so “having lost it” became an excellent excuse for getting a brand new laptop.  After all, you don’t want to be stuck paying those insurance premiums without ever getting something back – the ROI on that would be very negative.

Devices that are sold to pawnbrokers, as covered by, have a similar parallel.  Here you have an instance where objects are not exactly sold as much as they’re handed over for safekeeping, for a set period.  Most people think they’ll get it back (or so they hope.  If there’s a casino involved, which is often the case in Vegas, chances are that this won’t happen).

Perhaps the smartphone was insured, perhaps it wasn’t.  Perhaps the device’s owner will claim it as stolen or lost (in order to appease the company that got it for him; he certainly can’t say that he pawned it off).

Regardless, here you have a data breach that is not an unlucky event.  It’s also not really an “internal attack.”  It’s just…stupidity.  It’s kind of hard to avoid stupidity.

Which is why it makes sense to prevent such data breaches.

Full Disk Encryption On Your Devices

The easiest way to prevent data breaches of this nature is to secure and protect the data prior to giving a device to a person.  But, this is easier said than done.  For example, even if a passcode is set up on a smartphone, what is to prevent the user from deactivating it (or changing it to something incredibly vulnerable, like a passcode that is literally “1” as opposed to “1234”?)

It’s because of concerns like these that companies and organizations are using security software like AlertBoot to protect endpoints, regardless of whether it’s a laptop computer, a desktop computer, smart phones, tablets, and other portable data storage devices.

Among other things, AlertBoot’s cloud-based endpoint security allows an administrator to install encryption (remotely, if necessary); prevent its unauthorized uninstallation; the setup of password policies; remote lockout and data wipe; and a host of other features that enhance security before and after a device goes MIA.

The addition of a reporting engine, integrated into the service from the ground up, means admins can keep an eye on the security status of all protected devices.  It can also be used as documented proof of encryption if a laptop or smart phone is lost or stolen.

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