Fairfax Tech Talk Column

Fairfax Tech Talk Column

08.11.2019 Fairfax Tech Talk Column 171


When it comes to the rich and famous, we are constantly reading about the latest toys and accessories they purchase to live a life that is foreign to the average person. Think of private yachts owned by Steven Spielberg; Paul Allen and Larry Page that feature a full spa, movie theatre, gym and helipad. Think of private jets owned by Oprah; Bill Gates and Tyler Perry that feature a full spa, movie theatre, gym and helipad…OK, maybe not a helipad but you get the idea. The elite in society often show off their wealth with their transport and clothing and handbags - but not their mobile phones.

Apart from some specific security exceptions, in general the phones used by the wider population are the same models used by those we see on the covers of magazines each week. Sure, they may put a diamond-encrusted case on the phone that costs the equivalent of the GDP of a small nation but the phone itself is identical.

And that was never demonstrated more so than last week.

Start with the leader of the free world with a net worth of over US$3 billion. Donald Trump. Now move on to Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani is Trump’s personal lawyer and cybersecurity adviser. One may assume that Giuliani would have access to a secure government issued phone.

Not only does he use a normal, everyday iPhone, but he has trouble remembering his PIN! What does the US President’s cybersecurity adviser do when he can’t remember his PIN? He keeps trying different PINs until he disables his iPhone.

Next step? Ignore the hundreds of IT staff that work in the Oval Office and visit the local Apple store and ask the teenager without any security clearance for some help. Just the same as the average iPhone user would do.

In this case a complete reset of the phone was necessary along with the restoration of a backup from iCloud. This is a situation that I am sure Apple staff would see every day – not so much with cybersecurity advisers to the American President but for people walking in off the street.

The lesson from all of this? Be concerned about people in important positions who can’t even remember a password? Well...probably…but the real lesson is to ensure that you have a backup of your smartphone.

I have an incredibly complicated practice in relation to backing up your mobile phone. I call it the KYT. Kick Yourself Theory. Imagine one day you are climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge and your phone slips out of your hand into the ocean below. All data is gone. No contacts, no photos, no text messages. Nothing. How hard do you kick yourself? If the answer is “very” then choose from one of a number of different options to backup your phone on a regular basis. Once upon a time the only method was to plug your phone into a PC and manually backup your device. Murphy’s Law dictated that the day you lost your phone was the day before you were about to do the next backup! Today there are a variety of options to automate backup procedures to store your backup in the cloud on a regular basis. I normally recommend daily but go back to my KYT. If you lost a week of data is that OK? If so, then backup weekly. Would you kick yourself if you lost data from an hour ago? Then backup hourly. Most importantly, be aware of your backup scenario BEFORE you lose your data.

Tell me how often you perform a phone backup at ask@techtalk.digital.

Mathew Dickerson