Protecting User Data and Information on Mobile Technologies

As technology becomes more mobile the ability for us to use our devices and remain protected has become an ever important issue. More specifically the most universally used mobile device would be the cellphone for most. With this being the case a new market for mobile security has arisen and with it other technologies have been forced to evolve. The Virtual Private Network (VPN) has been a staple of network security for most hardwired computers due to its ability to mask network traffic and protect users. Although VPNs provide excellent security the different protocols they use to transfer data aren’t always provided or available on most mobile devices. For this reason a need has arisen for a special type of VPN with mobile friendly protocols.

As mentioned before technology is becoming more mobile to meet the average person’s more mobile life. This is where we can tie in a lot of the discussion made by Masao Kakihara and Carsten Sorensen regarding their ideas of spacial, temporal, and contextual mobility. Using their definition of spatial mobility as being the movement of objects and how the mobile devices we use most act almost as an extension of our skin (Kakihara and Sorensen, 2001, pg. 34). Though Kakihara and Sorensen wrote this article well over ten years ago, we see that the cellphone is one of the few things people have tied to them easily making them fit the criteria, and by default any applications of the cellphone would then become mobile as well. Their next mobility concept, temporal mobility, is less of an influence on a VPN application but more of a result of its work. For instance a user of a VPN will circumvent many of the different aspects of the internet that could lead to temporal influence in the form of “life interruption”. What I mean by this is by using the VPN on a mobile device it would allow the user to potentially avoid any of the negative side affects of data leaking on the web such as fraudulent credit card charges from identity theft or computer services from malware infection. Their third concept, contextual mobility plays a larger role for a VPN due to its use of interaction in cyberspace. Specifically Kakihara and Sorensen talk of how cyberspace allows for the mobility of interaction by connecting people from across the planet (2001, pg. 35) which is key in the VPN as it acts as the psedo “gatekeeper” for the mobile device by funneling the information through a secure gateway and sort of purifies these interactions by circumventing some of the negative aspects of the internet.

One of our other readings by Sherry Turkle discusses the concept of “Always-On/Always-On-You” technology which as many people and I will agree describes the cellphone perfectly. As cellular technology has grown smaller, faster, and more powerful, the abilities it can preform have allowed the cellphone to evolve into a mini computer. Because of this users can do things such as check e-mail on the go, respond to friends on Facebook, or even file their tax returns. Turkle speaks specifically about the effects of the mobile device becoming a key aspect in the definition of a users personality (2008, pg. 125) as it becomes an aggregate of applications and the go to for most social interactions be it though texting, social media, or online gaming. While the VPN has little application in the sending of this personal data when using a specific application such as the Twitter or Facebook app, the user is still susceptible to problems discussed earlier when using browsers and other data transmitting applications with multiple server interaction.

An earlier reading by Alice E. Marwick discussing social surveillance brings up very good points detailing some of the ways people interact over the web. In it she mentions that people using these technologies tend to be less concerned with governments and corporations discovering their web activity and loose information but more concerned with the users in their extended social networks (2012, pg. 379). While this concept isn’t unfounded it seems to cut out the actual culprits in many internet based security issues. While many users tend to associate web surveillance with governments or corporations it only tends to be lucrative for them to gather general info rather than the important info which we would like to keep secured. It is for this very reason that a mobile based VPN is necessary as mobile technology becomes the more widely used medium for traversing the different forms of the internet.

Aside from the already inherent security aspects of mobile technology we must consider the fact that cellular technology is incredibly accessible and in turn allows both the good and bad users to get their hands on it. In an article by Jonathan Donnor we see how quickly cellular technology can diffuse across the globe due to the far reach of cellular towers and their networks. As of 2008 when the article was written over eighty percent of the planet is within range of a GSM network signal, or in other words able to use mobile technology networks(2008, pg. 33). This not only raises the ability for cellular technology to grow and advance, but also brings with it the negative aspect that with an increased user base the amount of targets for the bad user grows. The use of a mobile VPN will only increase in need and thus the reason for some mobile technology creators, specifically Android, has begun to increase inherent VPN settings. While this is a step in the right direction, an application dedicated to acting as a VPN brings with it the ability to focus on security and development further protecting users, especially on devices such as the iPhone which suffers from limited user freedom due to its rather locked interface.

Works Cited:

Kakihara, M., & Sorensen, C. (2001). Expanding the ‘Mobility’ Concept. SIGGROUP Bulle,22(3). Retrieved March 26, 2015, from https://mobmedsp15.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/kakihara-and-sorensen_mobility.pdf

Turkle, S. (2008). Always-On/Always-On-You: The Tethered Self. Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies, 120-137.

Marwick, A. (2012). The Public Domain: Social Surveillance in Everyday Life. Surveillance & Society, 9(4), 378-393. Retrieved March 26, 2015.

Donnor, J. (2008). Shrinking Fourth World? Mobiles, Development, and Inclusion. Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies, 29-41.

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