We live in a digital age where creating data has almost become second nature to the human race. Whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter etc., the list is endless and vehicles to essentially digitize our social and personal lives continue to grow at a rapid pace. To me, mobility (smartphones and tablets) has been the biggest game changer in this space and the fact that I can take a few seconds out of my day to update my “status” makes it so easy to create data on the fly. The idea of creating data isn’t just restricted to social media and when you count the many apps made available to us via mobile platforms, you’ll quickly realize that information pertaining to photos, videos, text messages, e-mails, banking, movies and music are all making their way to your mobile device. The gist here is that we have become a mobile society where the notion of “everything on the go” isn’t just restricted as a slogan for a fast food restaurant. We now demand this very same mobility from our smart devices and I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a fan. I would much rather read and respond to an urgent late night email on my phone rather than boot my laptop up and go through the alternative process. We’ve all become entitled to the data driven age of mobility and it’s not going to slow down anytime soon.
Amidst the chaos and joy of this data creation, we tend to forget about the digital footprints left behind. Every bit (pun intended) of information we’re creating is carefully stored away with no intent of self-destructing (unless otherwise specified by the user). So where’s the problem? Well, for starters, you have to quantify your data and what it would do to you if that data were to ever get lost or worse, fall into the wrong hands. None of us quantify our data because frankly, we don’t know what that data means to us until it’s gone! Creating data, after all, has always been the easy part hasn’t it? Recently, Kroll Ontrack developed a Data Calculator, specifically aimed at helping customers score the emotional relevance of data to them. None of us do this today and I found the tool quite revealing about myself when I gave it a trial run. You can quantify your data in a number of ways but here’s one way to approach it…
- Multimedia – Comprises of your personal music collection, DVDs, Movies, Videos, and digital books
- Photos/Home Videos – Personal photo collection and Home Videos (Wedding, Kids, Holidays and special lifetime events)
- Office Documents – Emails, Contacts, and Office Documents
- Financial – Banks, Credit Card apps etc.
Now that you’ve quantified the value of your data, let’s focus on what it could mean if that data falls into the wrong hands. As data recovery continues to remind us, nothing is completely gone and even if you’re an exception to the rule and diligently wipe your phone or believe in the occasional factory restore option, I’m here to tell you that simply isn’t enough. Apple has a pretty cool way of remotely wiping your device in the event of a theft for example but data may still be recoverable. Simply deleting data from a smartphone or restoring factory settings is not enough, as data can still easily be recovered after these methods. In our business, it’s not uncommon to hear of scenarios where a user resells their mobile device only to realize that they have left traces of their personal data behind. Sometimes you get lucky and the new user does the right thing. Unfortunately, it always doesn’t have a fairytale ending. While the excitement of purchasing a new smart phone or tablet is unparalleled among us tech lovers, so should the passion for an effective “end of life” for such devices. If you don’t want personal information potentially falling into enemy hands, make sure you’re securely wiping it on a routine basis. If you want to sell your old phone, make sure you remove any potential traces of data so you can truly say that it is “unrecoverable.” I know, it takes time to go through the extra steps to permanently erase data and it is easier to do a factory reset. If you can quantify your data and measure the implications of that information in someone else’s hands, I’m willing to bet you’ll take those steps!
Recently, Kroll Ontrack announced a very exciting partnership with Blancco, a global leader in data erasure and computer reuse solutions. These guys provide erasure solutions for the military, defense, police, banking and IT asset reseller organizations around the world. What really sparked my interest though was a product they call Blancco Mobile which addresses the very issue I talk about. The solution is designed to erase your smartphone’s internal and external memory so user data such as emails, contacts and text messages are permanently erased. The process is fast and more importantly, comes with a detailed report of what was wiped and an audit trail. What does this tell me? That somewhere out there, folks clearly have a problem with effectively wiping their smart devices and Blancco is working on a solution to solve it. Candidly, I need to see more of this solution and you can bet that this product manager will have his share of feedback on where this product could go potentially. Where would you like to see it go?