14 October 2009

From the New Scientist: The pocket spy: Will your smartphone rat you out?

When Buck looked at my colleague’s iPhone, he found two 4-digit numbers stored in his address book under the names “M” and “V”. A search through his text messages revealed a few from Virgin informing him that a new credit card, ending in a specific number, had just been mailed to him. Buck guessed that “M” and “V” were PIN codes for the Virgin credit card and a Mastercard - and he proved to be correct on both counts.

“Out of context, an individual piece of information such as an SMS is almost meaningless,” says Jones. “But when you have a large volume of information - a person’s diary for the year, his emails, the plans he’s building - and you start to put them together, you can make some interesting discoveries.”

In this way the DiskLabs team also identified my colleague’s wife’s name, her passport number and its expiry date, and that she banks with Barclays. Ironically, Barclays had contacted her regarding fraud on her card and she had texted this to her husband. Buck’s team also discovered my colleague’s email address, his Facebook contacts, and their email addresses.

This article really drives home the point of how important it is to safeguard our digital information wherever it may be stored.  I, myself, have received emails from people with account information for various websites.  Email, as you may know, is not a secure form of communication.

The lack of security consciousness or even awareness in most people will surely be a source of great trouble as more an more of our personal information becomes readily available.  A few facts here and there can put together a clearer picture than we might imagine.

Here’s some tips for remembering passwords (1, 2 see comments) and some posts about encryption.

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