Government Officials and Device Security
Government officials need their electronic devices to be secure. Blackberry security has recently come under scrutiny from Shafiq Qaadri, a Liberal MPP in Ontario, who had several things to say about the company. Qaadri is quoted as saying “…the Legislative Assembly has for years maintained a BlackBerry-only policy in a valiant effort to buy Canadian, but this approach is handicapping, retarding and penalizing MPPs, their staff and indeed all members of the legislative community.” Read the full transcript here. With last year's celebrity photo leak scandal and 2013's Heartbleed bug, mobile security is becoming a terrifyingly vital issue.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen released a statement regarding the comments, in which he reminded Qaadri of the wide use of BlackBerry products across all G7 and 16 of G20 governments. He also pointed to the 70 security approvals and certificates that Blackberry products have earned. US President Barack Obama has been a fan of Blackberry's security features for a long time.
Qaadri's comment has highlighted the issue of mobile security for government officials across all platforms. With so many sensitive documents filtering through government officials' smartphones, a security breach could be devastating for any organization. While BlackBerry still boasts some of the best security features on all smartphones, there will continue to be a debate over a politicians' choice in selecting the most secure devices.
With the increasing amount of functions for smartphones, including near field communication (NFC), these devices are now common in the workplace. If government documents and emails were leaked in a security breach, the results could be devastating.
We can also only imagine the scandals that would arise if private phone contents were leaked to the public. Photos and other private messages are not meant for public consumption. As Hilary Clinton recently discovered, leaked communications through insecure devices and data exchanges throw a veritable monkey wrench into the mix.
As security breaches — such as WikiLeaks documents — have become common and serious problems for statesmen, data security has become essential. Newer technologies like NFC provide another avenue for potential hackers to breach. Individuals holding public office need to be able to trust that their devices are secure.
Long gone are the days of public officials frequently meeting in the board room. Smartphones provide an efficient form of communication between each other, and their staffs. With the growth of public responsibilities, face-to-face meetings have become a luxury. The security-for-convenience trade-off is still an important debate, requiring further consideration if mobile devices continue to be the main form of communication for these officials.
We know that the convenience of using your smartphone for just about everything is certainly hard to ignore. The possibilities that technology will provide in the future are seemingly endless, but the security risks proliferate with each new technological development.
Although smart phone hacking is a continuous threat to everyone, government officials need to be especially careful with their choice of device. Fighting the tide of technological advancement is foolish, especially in the area of smartphones. Instead we need to educate and protect ourselves. As hackers become better at accessing data illegally, data encryption software and mobile device security must meet their challenges. We need to make sure that politicians are taking advantage of these protections. The nation's security could very well be on the line.