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AlertBoot offers a cloud-based full disk encryption and mobile device security service for companies of any size who want a scalable and easy-to-deploy solution. Centrally managed through a web based console, AlertBoot offers mobile device management, mobile antivirus, remote wipe & lock, device auditing, USB drive and hard disk encryption managed services.

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AlertBoot offers a cloud-based full disk encryption and mobile device security service for companies of any size who want a scalable and easy-to-deploy solution. Centrally managed through a web based console, AlertBoot offers mobile device management, mobile antivirus, remote wipe & lock, device auditing, USB drive and hard disk encryption managed services.

Data Encryption On Tapes And Other Media When FedEx'ing Stuff: If They Can Lose Radioactive Rods...

Nothing like a weird story for the day right after Thanksgiving Day.  According to reports, FedEx lost (and found) a customer's radioactive rods.  This loss comes as a surprise to me despite FedEx's record of losing stuff.  If this won't convince people to use data security products like disk encryption when sending sensitive data via courier services, nothing will.

Calibrating CT Scans

The missing radioactive rods were part of a shipment that contained three boxes, each box containing four rods of Germanium-68.  These rods were used to control the calibration of CT scanners.  While the word radioactive conjures images of Godzilla, these rods emitted low-level radiation.

Indeed, FedEx's  nuclear physicist was quoted as saying, "the exposure from this rod, you'd have to be in close contact with it for 1,000 hours to get a skin blister."  This raises two important questions.  First, FedEx has a resident nuclear physicist? (Yes, they do.  He handles regulatory issues concerning radioactive cargo shipments.)

Second, how does it fit with this following observation:

"I don't believe it has the degree of radiation that, if it were opened, your skin would suddenly slop off. But the concern would be, if this got opened inadvertently and someone didn't know what it was and then was repeatedly exposed to it over several days, it could cause a problem with radiation poisoning," [Fox News Medical Contributor Dr. Marc] Siegel said. "The people that use this equipment in a hospital use protective shielding with it."

Several days is 24 x 3 = 72 hours.  That's a huge difference from 1,000 hours.

Finding the Rods and What It Means for Data Security

Thankfully, the rods were found at one of FedEx's facilities.  One of the three boxes had separated from the shipment: it was 10 inches long, weighed 20 pounds, and was unmarked.  The thing is so nondescript that I wonder how FedEx found it.  Geiger counter, perhaps?

The whole point to this story, and how it relates to encryption software:  While this might be one of those one-off, freakish stories that won't be repeated anytime soon, it shows you how sending packages via a general courier service is not necessarily "safe."  This story is even more pertinent because of the cargo involved: if you think there are some onerous laws regarding data security, you ought to see the paperwork for radioactive materials.

I'm willing to bet that there were a lot of checks and counterchecks to this particular shipment, and still it ended up lost.  And, I'm willing to also bet that when it ended up lost, FedEx spent more resources than usual in trying to locate it.

Would they do this for the usual lost shipments?  You know, shipments that don't have the potential to blister your skin after 1,000 hours of exposure from two feet away?

I'm not saying don't ship your backup tapes, CDs, and portable hard drives via a courier service.  I am saying, though, protect yourself from a data breach: use data encryption programs to safeguard your data in case something happens.  If the above story is possible, then anything less extreme is even more so.


Related Articles and Sites:
http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/11/26/1948245/FedEx-Misplaces-Radioactive-Rods
http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2010/nov/26/fedex-looking-missing-nuclear-rods-headed-knoxvill/
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/11/26/fedex-searches-missing-radioactive-equipment/?test=latestnews

 
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About sang_lee

Sang Lee is a Senior Account Manager and Security Analyst with AlertBoot, Inc., the leading provider of managed endpoint security services, based in Las Vegas, NV. Mr. Lee helps with the deployment and ongoing support of the AlertBoot disk encryption managed service. Prior to working at AlertBoot, Mr. Lee served in the South Korean Navy. He holds both a B.S. and an M.S. from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, U.S.A.