Even amidst a busy Labor Day weekend of travel and barbecues many of us heard about the recent leaked celebrity photo scandal. My colleague Jordan Golson covered it earlier this week and, though details are still vague, he stated that it appeared a possible iCloud vulnerability allowed hackers to use numerous passwords to obtain illegal access to the cloud storage accounts of various actresses (which were obviously not well protected with complex passwords). What happened next is not a happy ending for the celebrities involved.
Keeping confidential data online is always going to pose a risk, no matter how well-protected it may be. Numerous columnists including myself have written about this subject quite often, and while Jordan provided some tips on configuring stronger security controls for Apple devices, there's something to be said about keeping private data in your hands only.
With that in mind, I've become intrigued by the concept of a smart cable called bleep, which is currently in development by a company in Israel called Musers Ltd.
Bleep is a smartphone charging cable that also backs up your data. Essentially, it's a USB storage drive (16/32/64 Gb available) combined with a power cable and thus backups are stored right on an internal memory chip:
A free mobile app is used to administer bleep functionality. Bleep works for both iOS and Android, working automatically to store your critical information: contacts, files, photos, and more, kept in encrypted format which you can further protect with a password (note: restricted data such as credit card information is not backed up). You can customize the backup process so only the items you want to save are backed up. The first backup set takes the longest, but subsequent backups involve only the changed files so these will complete more rapidly. If you lose your smartphone or it breaks you can easily restore your data to a replacement model using the associated function on the bleep cable. It can back up multiple devices (within the limits of your available bleep storage, of course - if this runs low you'll receive a notification to warn you) without compromising security and you can even use the cable as a storage device accessible within your operating system. This latter feature allows you to copy your backup files elsewhere for added security, just in case you lose the bleep cable.
Musers, Ltd. has set up a crowdfunding page on indiegogo.com with details about the product. If you're unfamiliar with crowdfunding, it's a concept whereby companies can set up campaigns to solicit donations or advance purchases (also known as claims) from customers to generate revenue to get the product off the ground and out the door. Crowdfunding campaigns have target goals and in the case of bleep this was $20,000. However, as it turned out, Musers, Ltd. raised almost $25,000 in the first six days and they have presently received nearly $28,000. Musers, Ltd states that "so far we've done initial feasibility tests on Android devices; we've managed to transfer files from external memory, in a size that fits into a cable, and charge the phone with the same device. As for iPhones, we identified external devices that enable the same functionality."
At present, the standard contribution to receive a 16 Gb cable (offer applicable to the first 100 people) is $40, $55 for the 32 Gb cable (at the time of this writing 99/100 people had claimed this offer) or $78 for the 64 Gb model (up to 500 claimants). Perks such as $10 for a rugged cable can also be purchased and customers can buy 16 Gb cables in bulk (four for $140 or ten for $380). Shipping to the US and Israel is free and costs $10 for other worldwide destinations. You can also contribute smaller amounts to help fund the campaign. Bleep cables are expected to be ready for shipping by the third quarter of 2015.
Here is Musers, Ltd's expected product timeline for bleep:
After years of working with overly complex environments such as those engineered via Microsoft, Cisco and Citrix products I've seen the unpleasant potential for problems caused by too many moving parts. Therefore, I find beauty in the simplicity of bleep and I like the fact no monthly fee or network connection is required. I travel to many places with sketchy or non-existing network connectivity, and these are precisely the places where I might generate data such as wilderness photos I want to back up. With bleep, you're in control of your data - though of course, securing the cable itself should be a priority if there is anything confidential or mission critical on your phone.
Musers, Ltd also states they are working on similar products for other types of devices such as a wireless charging bleep pad and bleep for cameras, showing that they intend to expand their ideas into other areas as well.
The bleep crowdfunding campaign runs until next month. If you're interested, you can check out a nifty promotional video for bleep, visit their Facebook page, check them out on Twitter, and of course visit their website at www.bleepcharger.com.
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.