Taxis are a black hole for mobile phones, laptops and digital assistants

The biggest security threat to companies with a mobile workforce isn't wardriving hackers stealing 1s and 0s from the air or burrowing through the corporate firewall; it's absent-minded employees.

Dave Cutler, North American lead of the consulting firm Accenture's mobility practice said corporate data is most at risk when employees lose cell phones, PDAs or notebook computers. And Cutler, speaking at the CTIA wireless show in San Francisco cited no less an authority than Taxi Magazine to make his point.

During a six-month period in 2006, the publication reported, London taxicab drivers turned in the following electronic items to their lost-and-found departments:

* 63,315 mobile phones

* 5,838 personal digital assistants

* 4,972 notebook computers

Password protection may keep data on the device from falling into the wrong hands, but some passwords are more easily disabled than others. A more secure option touted by many at CTIA is a "clean wipe," which allows an IT administrator at a company to wirelessly connect to the missing device and delete all the corporate data on it.

Indeed other studies of taxi services have shown public transportation to be a black hole for all manner of devices. In the last six months of 2005, a nine-nation survey by Pointsec Mobile Technologies of leading taxi companies in Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Great Britain, and the U.S. indicated tens of thousands of digital devices were left behind inadvertently. A major Chicago cab company, reported the highest rate of losses per taxi of all firms studied: staggering 85,619 mobile phones, 21,460 PDAs/Pocket PCs, and 4,425 laptops left in the firm's licensed cabs during the six months covered in the study.

Not all results of the research were negative, however. Globally, an average of 80% of all passengers were reunited with their mobile phones and 96% with their Pocket PCs/PDAs and laptops-with the cab drivers themselves, in almost all cases, tracking down the owners.

-- Robert Mullins contributed this post.

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