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Going to the Olympics? don’t take your phone

Security experts at Venafi, the leader in enterprise key and certificate management (EKCM) solutions, warn that an estimated 67,000 mobile phones are likely to be lost or stolen during the Olympics in London. Numbers of smartphones and other portable networked devices have exploded over the past few years. As a result, this year’s Games will see the largest-ever risk of corporate and personal data loss during an Olympics period, with an estimated 214.4 terabytes of potentially sensitive data likely to be lost or stolen—an equivalent of 200 million books’ worth of data.

50,000 mobile phones are lost or stolen in the London area over any two-week period. During the Olympics, the total population in London is expected to swell by a third, with an extra million people using the tube every day. This, Venafi anticipates, will lead to an additional 17,000 lost or stolen phones, bringing the possible total to 67,000 during the two-week period.

Given that an estimated 40 percent of all mobile devices, or approximately 26,800, are smartphones, the risk of data loss and data theft during the Olympic Games is high. This means that a total of 214.4 terabytes—or the equivalent of 214.4 million books—will likely be lost or otherwise end up in the wrong hands during the Olympic Games. These figures do not include the even-larger data volumes at risk from the loss or theft of other mobile devices, such as laptops and tablets.

The recent BYOD (bring your own device) phenomenon means that more people are carrying more personally-owned devices at any given time than ever before. These powerful, network-enabled devices can access, process and store a great deal of data, much of it valuable and often-regulated business data.

“There’s been an explosion of corporate data available to users from their mobile devices. This is a real danger and one that is often overlooked,” said Gregory Webb, Venafi Vice President of Marketing. “People don’t consider or take action to protect the vast volumes of information they carry and have internet access to. 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.”

Organisations with users who can access corporate information, systems and applications remotely from mobile devices should have sound policies and device management systems in place. To help reduce mobile-access risks, Venafi also recommends that enterprises leverage encryption and digital certificates—with sound certificate-management capabilities—to ensure proper authentication and data protection.


Average number of lost or stolen devices in 17-day period in London:

  • In December 2010, 20,000 mobiles were lost or stolen every day in the UK. For the 17-day period of the Olympics this makes 20,000 x 17 = 340,000
  • UK population = 65 million; London population = 7.8 million

Therefore 340,000 x 7.8 / 65 = 40,800 mobiles lost in 17-day period

  • Since 2010, Android and iPhone sales have soared. The number of lost and stolen devices during the two-week Olympic period can therefore be reasonably estimated at 50,000

Predicted increase of lost or stolen devices during the Olympics:

  • Approximately 3.04 million passengers travel on the tube every day. With a predicted increase of one million extra passengers per day during the Olympics, this means we can anticipate a one-third increase, placing the total number of lost or stolen devices during the Olympics at around 50,000 + 17,000 = 67,000.

Estimated amount of data on lost and stolen devices during the Olympics:

  • Forty percent of mobile phones now are smartphones. Therefore of the lost or stolen 67,000 phones, 26,800 are likely to be smartphones.
  • The capacity of most smartphones is at least eight gigabytes. Therefore 26,800 smartphones could equal about 214.4 terabytes of lost or stolen data during the Olympics.
  • One megabyte equates to one book, equaling 214.4 million books in lost data.

Kitguru says: Whatever happens, you can be sure that theft will be sky high during the Olympics as gangs look to profit on high tourist levels.

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