Malcolm Gladwell’s fascinating book The Tipping Point came to mind yesterday with the news that NASA had a laptop stolen with the space station controls unencrypted on the device. The Tipping Point examines how major changes occur from seemingly small things. Gladwell’s goal at a high level is to ‘show people how to start “positive” epidemics of their own. The virtue of an epidemic, after all, is that just a little input is enough to get it started, and it can spread very, very quickly.’
I wonder if we will have a tipping point on endpoint protection with a single stolen laptop from NASA? Every month thousands of laptops are stolen and dozens of data breaches occur, however this is a laptop from our government’s most renowned scientific organization…the true rocket scientists that sent a man to the moon. Out of thousands of stolen laptops, this incident is the one that made the front page of the Huffington Post and had Brian Williams feature during the NBC evening news.
NASA’s Inspector General Paul Martin in his written testimony to congress echoed the calls we get every week from companies that have just suffered a data breach. The lack of centrally managed security for mobile devices meant ‘just 1 percent of NASA portable devices are encrypted,’ and that NASA has no idea what other information may have been breached from laptop thefts: ‘NASA cannot consistently measure the amount of sensitive data exposed when employee notebooks are lost or stolen because the agency relies on employees to self-report regarding the lost data rather than determining what was stored on the devices by reviewing backup files.’
NASA is beginning the long and expensive road of having to deal with a data breach. Sadly protecting endpoints with at rest encryption of key data, and the ability to remotely delete data from a stolen laptop is easy to implement if organizations prioritize the issue. Every week we have calls with customers that are trying to come to grips with a potential data breach from a stolen laptop and we hope the NASA data breach leads to Gladwell’s positive epidemic of endpoint protection.