IP Security Lessons from the L.A. County Jail

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This has been a tough day to find meaty business headlines to comment on, unless of course your business is celebutante defense attorney or paparazzi stalker.


Amidst the early morning coverage of how the West's notions of criminal justice had been despoiled by the seemingly early release of Paris Hilton from jail, I was taken by a comment from an attorney who noted that the L.A. sheriff and jailers were probably just trying to dodge the headache and expense of securing their mystifyingly famous prisoner.


One cited risk was making sure that corrections officers and other jail employees didn't use camera phones to snap pics of Paris and collect on numerous tabloid bounties being offered.


Ah, a tech angle.


We've blogged previously about how at least one consultancy is warning that ubiquitous photographic equipment and photo-sharing services is a largely unaddressed corporate threat, both in terms of employee privacy and intellectual property. But while removable storage devices, like the iPod, get a lot of attention from the security press, not so camera phones.


At first, this post might seem like a cynical attempt to get in on the "jail Paris" craze (maybe I'll be able to slip in as item 3,000 or so on the Hilton Google News cluster). But in fact, camera phone abuse is being recognized as a real issue in industries where security and privacy are paramount. Just last month, Wired reported on firings of employees at California hospitals related to camera phones and patients records, or the patients themselves, including sick children.


My searching this afternoon was unable to turn up an example of an employee complaint that their personal privacy had been violated via a camera phone, but certainly employee records -- particularly health-related ones -- are carefully guarded by countless regulations. So it is a plausible threat. Any shop that's concerned enough about IP to feel the need to lock down key drives should seriously re-evaluate the security of hard copy records that can be digitized with one click of a device -- a device that never needs to log on to your network.


Of course, that's not to suggest that your business strategy maps are as valuable as yet another photo of a drunken hotel heiress.