Calling Houston

A couple of years ago Time Magazine reported the often used comparison that a typical smart phone has more computing power than Apollo 11 when it landed a man on the moon.

So it was then of great interest recently when the people that sent Apollo 11 reported on their use of smart phones!

The NASA Office of the Inspector General recently released a report on the Management of its Smartphones, Tablets and Other Mobile Devices.

It makes for very interesting ready – not least because the issues that are universally relevant.

As the above mentioned Time article suggested:

In many parts of the world, more people have access to a mobile device than to a toilet or running water; for millions, this is the first phone they’ve ever had. In the U.S., close to 9 in 10 adults carry a mobile

At NASA the use of this technology falls into three categories:

  • Service provider devices. NASA acquires these devices and services from HP, paying the company monthly for the devices and associated services (e.g., data charges). As of June 2013, HP managed approximately 11,300 smartphones and tablets for NASA employees and contractors.
  • NASA-owned devices. NASA purchases these devices and obtains associated data services outside of the ACES contract. As of June 2013, NASA owned and managed more than 1,500 smartphones and tablets.
  • Personal devices. The individual user owns and pays for the device and associated services with personal funds. As of June 2013, NASA employees and contractors were accessing Agency internal network systems using more than 13,000 personal smartphones and tablets. The use of personal smartphones and tablets to access NASA information is sometimes referred to as “BYOD” or “Bring Your Own Device.”

So what did the Inspector General find?

Firstly not surprisingly – for this would be an issue in nearly every organisation globally – there is not a full inventory of the technology:

Weaknesses in NASA’s mobile device management practices mean the Agency is unable to ensure that it is not paying for unused devices. Specifically, NASA lacks a complete and accurate inventory of Agency-issued mobile devices, which makes it difficult for the Agency to determine whether contractor charges are accurate.

And the second issue equally should not be a revelation:

NASA had not addressed serious information security risks associated with employees and contractors using personal smartphones and tablets to access NASA networks, including the potential for unauthorized access if these devices were lost or stolen.

Addressing these two relatively simple yet fundamental issues will assist all organisations in exploiting mobile technology to their benefit.

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