Why mobile data's at more risk than ever

In a recent survey, my company asked 227 North American-based enterprise security professionals to identify where their organization's confidential data was most vulnerable to unauthorized access or use. The responses demonstrate the risks associated around mobility.

More than two-thirds of respondents said that their data was most vulnerable on laptop PCs, while 40% chose "other mobile devices" (i.e. PDAs, mobile phones, wireless devices) and another 38% said "portable media" (i.e CD-ROM, USB flash drives, etc.). Note: multiple responses to this question were accepted.

I bring up this data point because mobility hit me like a ton of bricks the other day. I was leaving New York City on the train to New Haven. While catching up on email on my Treo, I noticed others doing the exact same thing all throughout the crowded train car. The woman on my left was thumbing responses on her Blackberry with great dexterity while another woman on my right had a broadband card plugged into her laptop and was clearly connected from 96th St. until I got off in Stamford.

This massive mobile data exchange drove two thoughts: 1) Mobility = productivity. All of these folks could have been reading the paper, looking out the window or sleeping but instead they were still working on their way out of the city, and 2) Everyone on the train was a ripe target for a data breach. Sniffing the network would involve some advanced network knowledge but stealing a device would be relatively easy.

Think of this as a microcosm of the current state of information security. We are pushing IT harder than ever to gain additional business value and creating security vulnerabilities in the process.

In the past, these risks were either misunderstood or ignored. But the number of American citizens whose private data has been exposed as a result of a data breach will soon cross the 100 million mark. Don't you think it's time that we recognize and bridge this security gap? Otherwise, we're condemning ourselves to a future of more vulnerabilities and security holes.