Mobile Theft: How To Keep Sensitive Data Safe

With smartphones — particularly the iPhone — becoming common targets of theft, what security options best suit associations?

Recently, the mobile phone theft rate dropped significantly in New York City. But rather than see this as a good thing, police sounded the alarm.

Why? Because the 12 percent decrease happened just before the release of the iPhone 5. In fact, widespread thefts of iPhones have had an effect on crime in the city.

“Our crime statistics have gone up almost 4 percent this year. If, in fact, there were no thefts of Apple products, we actually have a decrease this year,” NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told CBS News.

The increase is dramatic. In 2007, about 5,230 Apple products were stolen in the city. In the first nine months of 2012 alone, that number reached 13,782. And New York City isn’t alone.

“Just about every major city across the country has the same exact crime dynamic. Those gadgets are valuable,” Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy told the network. He says that the gadgets drive the trend: “As a new product comes out, that becomes the item du jour that criminals want to steal.”

With cellphone theft on the increase, associations could find their sensitive data in danger if an executive’s phone fell into the wrong hands. How do you keep that data safe?

Kelly’s thought on the matter: “That’s an easy question. We’ve been asking for this for years, that is, in essence, to disconnect the phone, making it a useless piece of junk if it’s stolen.”

Many associations would likely support having their stolen phones wiped and disconnected, especially if the phones are provided by the organization or contain sensitive association data. But phone companies are less receptive to the idea, out of concern it could hurt their subscriber-based revenue stream.

On the other hand, industry groups such as CTIA-The Wireless Association support a bill written by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) to create a national phone registry, similar to a license plate registry, and prevent stolen phones from circumventing that registry — limiting the value of a stolen phone.

How is your association guarding against mobile theft? Let us know in the comments.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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