The Pros and Cons of Terabyte Phones

Steve Jones, 2019-02-04

A few years ago I wrote a piece about the growth of storage in many devices and the large quantities of data that can be kept. I speculated that we might see terabyte mobile phone storage in a decade. That was 2014 and this past week Samsung announced they had created a 1TB embedded Universal Flash Storage chip for phones. You can already get a Note9 with 512GB of storage, so this isn't a huge leap, but it does feel like a milestone.

For many of us, that seems like a good move. We can keep all the photos, videos, movies, and more that we want on our phones. I take a lot of pictures in life, and lately I've struggled with a 32GB phone. I keep debating upgrading, just because I'd like more storage. There are certainly challenges with keeping all this imagery and video backed up, but that's a separate discussion. I'd like to just be able to capture data and make decisions about how to protect it later. There are also plenty of transient items (movies, Pluralsight courses, and more) that I just want to keep on temporary storage for a limited time.

More is better, but it also creates potential problems. With a 1TB, or potentially larger, storage on my phone, what about the problem of data loss and theft by insiders? Very few of us work in jobs where we can't keep our mobile device with us. Many of us also work with sensitive data, and there is a potential for transferring a lot of data to a relatively innocuous device. These days we might not even need to plug in our mobiles with bluetooth file transfer programs. Even if we plug in a phone, that's innocent and expected? Modern smartphones often need charging during the day.

It's not just us, but also contractors, consultants, and non-privileged users that might be able to move data. Certainly someone might act maliciously, but what about the potential for new types of malware? Android is more open and iOS, and there have been viruses. How long before there are some virus programs that try to connect to every SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, etc. database when plugged into your laptop?

That might seem far fetched, and certainly our databases grow larger and larger, but much of the data is text, and more ERP/CRM programs are in use that contain known schemas where worms, virii, and other malware might target specific tables. A terabyte can store a lot of text data, especially if it's usernames and password hashes.

I don't know of any mobile to PC infections yet, but I do know there are lots of smart people out there. It's just a matter of time before someone starts to try and exploit the capabilities of modern mobile devices, especially those with large storage capacities.

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