London Olympics, smartphones make for huge data breach

About 214 million books worth of corporate and personal data are expected to go missing during the Summer Olympics in London, estimates Venafi, a vendor of Enterprise Key and Certificate Management (EKCM) solutions.

As massive as that potential loss is, however, it is nothing out of the ordinary. More than two-thirds of that amount of data are lost or stolen during any typical two-week period in London.

Perhaps the only good news in the Venafi analysis is that it shows no clear evidence of greater risk of theft at the Olympics -- the estimate is based on the fact that there will be more people in the city during the event, which runs 17 days, from Friday, July 27 to Sunday, Aug. 12.

Venafi estimates that 67,000 phones will be lost or stolen during the Olympics, that about 40% of them will be smartphones, and that those phones will have a capacity of at least eight gigabytes, which would equal about 214.4 terabytes of data.

But that estimate is based on the fact that about 50,000 phones are lost or stolen in the London area during an average two-week period. The number of passengers riding the city's mass transit system is expected to increase by a third, or about one million a day, leading to the estimate of 67,000 phones.

Gregory Webb, vice president of marketing atç Venafi, acknowledged that the estimate did not indicate a higher statistical threat of theft. But he said it is still worthwhile to warn those attending the Olympics. "People tend to be less focused on security, and would-be hackers are on the lookout for easy prey," he said.

Webb also said the statistics do not break down the percentages of devices that are lost as opposed to stolen, but said the risk is the same. "The likelihood of that device and data being taken care of is very low."

Low, but not nonexistent. Graham Cluley of Sophos, in a post on the company's Naked Security blog, wrote last week of a sting operation by British police in the Sussex towns of Hastings and St Leonard's, in which officers placed "bait" phones embedded with tracking devices in nine pubs and bars, and none of them were stolen.

"Nearly all of them were spotted by honest customers and handed in to door staff and bar management," Cluley wrote.

Of course, that wasn't in London, and Cluley said he wouldn't assume this is a trend. "Sadly, I wouldn't bank on it," he wrote.

Cluley told CSO Online: "I know the authorities have warned that they are expecting an increasing number of pickpockets in London over the coming weeks, taking advantage of the influx of visitors."

Another factor that heightens the risk for enterprises, Gregory Webb said, is the explosion of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), meaning more people than ever are carrying smartphones with work-related data on it.

"People don't consider or take action to protect the vast volumes of information they carry and have Internet access to," he said. "With the ever-shrinking boundaries between work devices and work-enabled personal devices, lost or stolen smartphones and other mobile devices that fall into the wrong hands place companies and business data at tremendous risk."

Webb said it is true that many companies are addressing that risk, by making sure employees mobile devices are equipped with encryption software and remote wiping capability in the event they are lost or stolen.

But he said there is still a significant lack of awareness of good security practices. He said one company was preparing to deploy 15,000 iPads, which come with individual digital certificates, and the company leaders decided it would be more convenient to issue the same certificate to all 15,000 of them.

"Obviously, I'm in the enterprise key and certificate management business, but the best practice really is good encryption and multi-factor authentication. When those best practices are followed, it decreases the risk significantly," he said.

So is there anything specific that individuals can do to protect their devices? "What's required for the end user is vigilance," Webb said. "Attackers want to take advantage of the fact that there is more chaos. So you need to protect your device just like you'd protect any other vital asset."

Read more about wireless/mobile security in CSOonline's Wireless/Mobile Security section.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Taylor Armerding

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place