iPad Lending issues: Part 2

As the first post on iPad lending issues started to get a bit long, and because I found some new info- a second post seemed appropriate.

Will iPads compromise the security of the institution?:

Thank you to Randall MacDonald from Florida Southern College Roux Library for this question.  The answer is complicated: yes and no.

In the past, Apple has been able to fly under the virus radar because their devices were not prevalent enough to be profitable to attack.  If only 10% of average users and only 2% of businesses use/own Mac devices and the rest of the world operates on PC/Microsoft – it is more profitable to attack PC/Microsoft users.  It isn’t that hackers cannot attack Apple – it just hasn’t been profitable to attack Apple.  Place the emphasis on the past tense; as more and more business, universities and individuals move toward adopting Apple products this safety net will disappear.

To add more complication to this mix – it isn’t just Mac that is suddenly coming to terms with this reality.  As more people use mobile devices (smart phones, PDAs, tablets, etc.)  people are having to consider this possibility: “what if my phone gets hacked?”  Last year the Wall Street Journal published a great article highlighting this threat: Dark Side Arises for Phone Apps (Ante, S. E.  2011).  The same threat exist for Apple: as more people use them, they will become a target.

I have not found too much information from Apple about security issues or on how Apple is responding to security issues.  They continually release updates to their software and to avoid the threat of viruses.  If you own an Apple product, it is prudent to update your devices timely.  In short: every time a company updates their software, hackers too must update their viruses.  If you have the latest version, you are safer because hackers haven’t updated their viruses yet – you not 100% protected, but you are safer.  To bolster this protection, you can purchase virus protection for your mobile devices.  In 2009 NPR presented a great article (NPR. 2011)on mobile device virus protection and on their website they list McAfee (NPR. 2011) as a valid source for mobile device security.

Back to Randall’s question: Will iPad’s compromise the security of the institution?  I am not a programmer, nor am I an expert on viruses, security or how viruses can compromise the security of an institution.  This is my opinion: in as much as an unprotected computer can compromise security – so can an unprotected iPads.  iPads are computers and it is their access to the internet that could cause problems.  Contact your IT department for more information on how they currently secure their open use computers.  A similar method for protecting mobile computers should provide comparable protection for your iPad program.

A side note on security:

If the concern is with protecting the institutions security, then the institution needs to be sure that their network is secure.  As with all open wireless hot-spots, there is risk involved: see 2004 Lowe’s wardriving case (Poulsen, K. 2004).  If Lowes had properly secured their wireless connection, they would not have been hacked and their customer’s credit card numbers would not have been stolen.  This lack of security does not excuse hackers, but it is a solid warning to anyone with a wireless connection: put a password on it and lock it down.

Also, it is advisable to notify patrons of the risk involved with using any open wireless hot-spots.  Patrons should not pay bills, view bank accounts or execute any personal transactions on open wireless hot-spots.  Technically, a malicious individual using the same open wireless connection could steal their information with little to no effort using software that basically records all transactions that are bounced to and from the wireless connections.

The moral of the story is: with any new device or technology use an adequate amount of caution and you will be fine.  Look both ways before you cross the street and you will arrive safely on the other side.

Lost or Stolen iPads:

Most universities reported that theft is not a significant problem and that the fee systems do serve as a productive deterrent.  However, tragedy has struck before and iPads have gone missing.  Luckily, Patrick Tomlin of Virginia Tech advised me that there is a great solution to this!  All iPads are equipped with GPS technology and as such, all iPads can be tracked.  Yes, Big Brother is watching.

Gadget Track, Mobile Me and Mobile Spy are some current software apps that are used in such cases.  It is also advisable to permanently stamp, label or otherwise identify the iPad as library property and provide a return address and phone number so that if a patron misplaces the iPad, a good Samaritan will have the opportunity to return it.

Additional issues:

As new issues come up, I will post them!


Article posted as part of the Teaching Information Literacy “23 things” assignment “Post a blog about anything technology related”


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