Regardless of the security illuminati’s vision of vulnerable safari brower and bluetooth hijacking exploits, or the anti virus industries desire to see a world engulfed in mobile malware, the greatest security risk we face from mobile devices, such as the iPhone, is the risk of death or dismemberment at the hands of distracted drivers. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine (here) found that drivers who used mobile phones while driving were four times more likely to crash than those not using a cell phone, a rate equal to driving under the influence at an .01 level, which is 20% higher than the current .08 in all U.S. states.
I have driven in the some of the most hazardous regions in the world, from the mountains of Thailand to the unpaved roads in Bolivia, through the muggy streets of Mumbai where bicycle, car, riskshaw, and man on elephant coalesce into a cauldron of snarled traffic the likes of which can only be described as total Armageddon (honk at a man on an elephant, go ahead – they don’t give a shit, unless of course we mean literally) but living in the Bay Area I am constantly amazed at the lack of attention drivers have to the task of actually driving. Women doing their makeup, men shaving, drinking coffee, reading the paper – what the hell? I am not overly concerned if you choose to walk down a path that leads to your own demise, bodily injury or death, but do you not realize you are placing my life and the life of my family at risk.
Recently there has been much discussion about the security implications of the mobile computing devices, spurred on by the introduction of the iPhone delivered by the God like masters of marketing and hype.
And God spoke unto Apple…
Jobs 6:14: So make yourself a talisman of earthen steel and silicon, give it a tilt screen and coat it in cool shininess
Jobs 6:15: And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the talisman shall be 11.6mm, the breadth of it 61mm, and the height of it 115mm.
Jobs 6:16 16: Make a window for it and finish the talisman to within 4.5 inches of height. Put a speaker in the side of the talisman and make the lower, middle, and upper parts shiny and thus cool
Realize that happiness can never be achieved through the accumulation of shiny objects, a never ending cycle of object attainment followed soon after by the dissipation of joy. But I digress…
So what does the iPhone, mobile security and bad driving have to do with each other? First they shouldn’t mix – that is mobile devices and driving. It is a bad combination, bad like Ike and Tina, or Michael Jackson and young children, or Dick Cheney and Democracy. Independently there is nothing wrong with mobile devices or driving, but together they can cause the greatest security threat we all face on a daily basis – that is the loss of life. Some may argue that when Bob in accounting decides to check his iPhone in the car and rams into the back of a sedan full of kids that it isn’t really a security issue – really? How is it any different than Bob in accounting using his iPhone to download porn and infecting the organization with a virus, worm or bot-infected nastiness? Personally I will take my life, liberty and freedoms over a slow running machine, theft of my identity or damage to my companies brand – I am just selfish that way.
As I believe that human behavior is difficult to change and no amount of awareness to the ramifications of driving while under the influence of a mobile device will actually result in less cell-phone related traffic accidents (see statistics on drunk-driving arrests and related fatalities which have experienced no statistically significant drop even with aggressive awareness campaigns) I feel that this is one area where we do need to legislate acceptable use. Not only should it be illegal to use a mobile device in a moving vehicle, I would like to see automobiles that when in motion block all communications except for 911 emergency services. Technically this is not that difficult, politically and from the perspective of the telecommunications lobby it will never happen.
Which leads me to July’s Jackass of the Month, which is awarded to the drive of a silver Saab CA license plate #4TIW099 who was not only clutching his cell phone with his left hand as the big sausage like fingers of his right hand were choking the life out of his blackberry, his wrists positioned against the steering wheel just so. He was swerving in and out of traffic, driving like Lindsay Lohan after a Hollywood party, making an ass of himself, which is his inalienable right as an American, however he was also putting the rest of us at risk. There was a part of me that wanted to administer the fist of asphalt justice, and had I still been in my youth I imagine the outcome would have been different, as it was I allowed compassion to win and silently prayed that him and those like him do us no harm.