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  November 4, 2011
Can You Hear Me Now?...

 


This week I found myself once again in my least favorite city in America, Las Vegas, for the SEMA and AAPEX exhibitions.  My visit to the show this year was only a one-night / two-day excursion, so my time was compressed as I met with an assorted group of customers and vendors.

Car week is one of the last big shows that engulfs Las Vegas and stretches the resources of the normally abundant supply of taxis, restaurants and hotels.  Traffic near the convention center is gridlocked as thousands of attendees make their way to and from the exhibition halls each morning and night.

As I was being ferried back to the airport in the shuttle van, I felt a sense of relief that I was able to get into town, finish my business and leave without much incidence.

After a brief encounter with the friendly TSA agents guarding the gates, I found myself in the waiting area a good ninety minutes before my flight.  With the extra time and free Internet access, I decided that it was a good time to return several days of e-mail and perhaps begin writing this week’s blog.

Lady luck was smiling upon me as I found a seat near a vacant electrical outlet so I could charge both my phone and computer.

I sat down to begin writing when I heard an announcement over the loudspeaker that my flight back to San Diego was over-booked and that the airline was offering $200 in future flight credits to volunteers wishing to take a later flight. 

I stopped my writing to ponder the idea of taking a later flight and collecting the reward.  Remembering that the next flight was only one hour past my original departure time, I went to the podium to volunteer my seat to the gate agent.  After a short wait, I heard over the intercom that no more volunteers were needed at this time so I returned to my seat to continue writing.

After a brief time, I glanced over at the wall and a wave of terror quickly overcame me. 

My phone was gone!!

I immediately looked around try to find a culprit quickly fleeing the scene of the crime but observed that airports were indeed full of people quickly scurrying about.  I frantically asked people around me if they had seen anyone take the phone and they all replied "no".  Anger swelled in my cheeks as I surveyed the crime scene looking for a potential suspect.

My anger quickly turned into fear and panic as I thought of the information that was stored in my phone...contact information...birthdays...phone lists... stock positions... appointments... shortcuts to Facebook and LinkedIn accounts... and of course passwords for bank, brokerage, and credit accounts.  All of this information was now in the hands of a criminal. 

I consoled myself with the knowledge that at least my phone was protected by a password...but it was only a 4-digit pin which could be broken within a short time.

Thoughts were pouring through my head like a waterfall when It suddenly dawned upon me that I had installed an application called "Find my Phone" which allowed me to use my laptop computer to locate and disable my phone.  If I could locate my phone, I could permanently erase its contents.

Using the airport’s Wi-Fi system, I logged onto the website allowing me to locate my phone.  I attempted to locate and disable the phone but a message came back telling me that the phone was now turned off so those services were not available at this time. 

Not only was my phone taken by a thief...the thief was a smart thief with knowledge of how IPhone tracking systems work.

After a quick assessment of potential losses, I decided it would be best to begin the task of changing passwords for my bank and brokerage accounts (this would be the most immediate source of funds for the would-be cyber-criminal).  It was now a race against time...the thief trying to break the code and me trying to change important passwords.

Soon boarding announcements were being made and I needed to suspend my efforts.

During the relatively short plane ride back to San Diego, I couldn’t help but think that I allowed Las Vegas to rob me yet again.  I was a victim of my own doing, trusting people to do the right thing but becoming disappointed when I discovered that this was just not the case.

Upon arriving at my destination, I continued the task of converting passwords for my frequently used websites.  The remainder of the changes would need to wait until the next day when I would have access to my back-up database at the office. 

When I got home, I reported the phone stolen to my service provider so the thief will never be able to ever activate it (or so I am told).  Perhaps he/she will soon realize this fact and dispose of the device in a dumpster or perhaps he/she will continue to try to unlock it by trying all 10,000 possibilities (the experience has actually given me a good idea for a new smart phone app...you get only 3 times to unlock the phone...after which time the phone is permanently locked until certain security questions are answered).  

This experience has also given me fresh perspective as to how much I’ve come to rely on my tele-computing device. 

As I drove to work the following morning, I realize that I don’t even own a watch thanks in part to the reliance and typical close proximity of my phone. 

Even when I traveled to Europe this past spring, where my CDMA phone was unable to connect to the European GSM system, I was still relied on my phone to perform a variety of tasks using the  applications on my phone.  I had an alarm clock, an electronic notepad to write myself reminders, games to play during the long plane rides, a place to store and recall phone numbers, addresses, frequent flyer numbers, hotel reservations and appointments.  I also had a high quality camera, a compass, and Internet access when a Wi-Fi connection was available.

A phone today is so much more than a phone.  It is an umbilical cord that connects us to the world and our data.  No longer are we burdened down with multiple devices...it’s now all available to us in one small unit.

In the end, I ended up losing some time and a little money (the phone was insured but carried a $200 deductible).  I am fortunate that my losses were thus far measured and relatively minor but still feel victimized by my own negligence.

Yet another tuition payment to the school of hard knocks...

Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse as we all continue to live and learn...



Jim Kalb
President
OptiFuse
jimk@optifuse.com

 


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