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Security expert's warnings prove true: Mexican government officials steal White House BlackBerry devices

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Security expert's warnings prove true: Mexican government officials steal White House BlackBerry devices

Palm Bay, FL—ZATZ Publishing today announces that national security concerns published by David Gewirtz, ZATZ Editor-in-Chief and the author of Where Have All The Emails Gone? have been proven true in a particularly tangible and unfortunate example.

Today, Fox News reported that Rafael Quintero Curiel, lead press advance person for the Mexican Delegation was caught stealing six or seven BlackBerry devices belonging to White House staffers who were attending meetings between U.S. President George W. Bush and Canadian and Mexican leaders in New Orleans this week. Unfortunately, Quintero Curiel was caught after the devices had been in his possession for some time.

"Let's put this in perspective," says Gewirtz.

"The King James Bible is about 1,120 pages, or about 2.5MB, so a typical 64MB BlackBerry could hold about 25 King James Bible's worth of information.

"That's the equivalent in strategic U.S. government information of about 28,000 printed pages of data, or seven complete sets of all seven Harry Potter novels. And that's per BlackBerry. Given today's incident, that's seven times seven complete sets of all seven Harry Potter novels. Scared yet?"

If you watched spy movies back in the 1960s, you're familiar with the image of the government courier handcuffed to an important briefcase. Today, many key government officials carry BlackBerry handheld smartphones instead. They're easier to carry, can hold a lot more information, and provide excellent, instant, two-way communication.

Gewirtz first reported BlackBerry security concerns as one of many email-related national security concerns in Where Have All The Emails Gone? and also discussed his concerns recently in a column written for the Nieman Watchdog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

In the book, Gewirtz discusses how former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove had lost several BlackBerry devices, according to testimony before Congress, and the security risk that presented.

Gewirtz makes specific recommendations for the management of missing BlackBerry (and other handheld devices). He recommends each staffer issued such a device needs to be trained to notify the Electronic Communication Protection Detail (a group he recommends be created to manage all of the White House email security issues) immediately when a device is lost. He also recommend that no communication device be issued to White House staffers without two key features: location and destruction.

It is possible to both remotely erase certain BlackBerry devices and remotely locate them. When lost, a team from the Electronic Communication Protection Detail should first trigger the remote erase and then a tracking team needs to be dispatched to recover these little mobile nightmares as quickly as possible.

"I'll leave you with one more very disturbing thought," says Gewirtz. "Apparently Quintero Curiel made it all the way to the airport before Secret Service officers caught up with him. Although he returned the devices, a 20-minute trip to the airport provides more than enough time to copy everything on each device.

"Face it," continues Gewirtz. "Whatever White House secrets -- and that could include anything from home addresses and phone numbers of top-level officials to strategic war plans or our economic negotiating strategies -- whatever strategic U.S. information was on those BlackBerry devices is now probably in Mexican hands."

"Still not freaked out?" asks Gewirtz. "Try this: what if those BlackBerry handhelds were stolen by Iran, North Korea, or Al-Qaeda instead? This is a systemic problem that needs fixing."

If anything, the news this week has reinforced just how important David Gewirtz's recommendations in Where Have All The Emails Gone? are. Those six steps may be the only path that will prevent problems like these from getting worse.

To arrange an interview or to further discuss the disturbing issues brought up by this news, email Denise Amrich at denise@ZATZ.com or call (321) 722-4620. Please include your complete contact information, including phone.

If you wish to have David contribute an original column to your publication or broadcast, please contact Denise for possible availability.


David Gewirtz has written more than 600 articles about email, collaboration, and mobile technology. He is the Cyberterrorism Advisor for the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals, a columnist for The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, and has been a guest commentator for the Nieman Watchdog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

As one of America's foremost email experts, he's been able to do unprecedented forensics research. As the editor of the two leading magazines on the email technologies used at the White House, he has the expertise necessary to see and explain all sides of the issue, provide workable, non-partisan solutions, and make it understandable to everyone.

Additional resources
Where Have All The Emails Gone? is the most comprehensive analysis of White House email ever published, reads like a thriller, and ends with six very doable recommendations that can quickly and easily bring security and safety back to White House email.

The book's Web site http://www.EmailsGone.com contains a complete resource center with original documentation, source material, and forensic artifacts used in the investigation. The $19.95 book is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0945266200.

Library of Congress Control Number: 2007937415
ISBN (10-digit): 0-945266-20-0
ISBN (13-digit): 978-0-945266-20-4

About ZATZ Publishing
ZATZ Publishing is a leading publisher of special-interest online magazines and books for technical consumers and IT professionals. ZATZ publishes popular magazines, including OutlookPower Magazine, DominoPower Magazine, Computing Unplugged Magazine, Connected Photographer Magazine, and WebSpherePower Magazine. Together, these publications have nearly one million readers and are the leading monthly magazines in their markets.

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It could be worse. It could be iPhones.... by BIS muth on Saturday, Apr 26, 2008 at 1:06:34 PM