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PDA security still dismal

Data vulnerable, workers apathetic

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Worker apathy about PDA security is putting corporate data in jeopardy. The storage of the names and addresses of corporate customers on PDAs is now common - but security practices are struggling to keep up with technology usage. Two thirds of users do not use any kind of encryption to protect confidential data on mobile devices, according to a survey commissioned by Pointsec Mobile Technologies and Infosecurity Europe.

The Mobile Vulnerability Survey 2004 found that a third of users do not even use password protection on their devices, leaving the information vulnerable to opportunists, hackers or competitors. Security awareness remains as low as that recorded by Pointsec in a similar study last year. Since then, the diversity of applications run on PDAs has blossomed, making them an even more attractive target for would-be data thieves. PDAs are now firmly entrenched as corporate communication tools, with almost half being used to receive and view corporate emails, and a third now doubling as a phone. Three in ten are used to store corporate information.

The survey findings show that one of the fastest and easiest ways to access corporate data is through unprotected PDAs that are lost or stolen, as they contain business names and addresses, spreadsheets and other corporate documents. As well as using their PDAs to store company information, many users store valuable personal information such as PIN numbers, bank account details, social security numbers and even lists of passwords, many of which can be accessed - ironically - without a password.

One in eight (13 per cent) of respondents to the survey have lost their mobile device, possibly in a taxi (30 per cent), or a car (20 per cent), or home (20 per cent), at an airport (10 per cent) or in a restaurant (10 per cent).

More companies than ever have introduced a specific mobile security policy - over 50 per cent have a policy, compared with 27 per cent last year. But very little has changed in practice. For three years in a row, the number of people who are encrypting their data or using passwords to secure their PDAs has remained roughly static, in spite of the efforts of companies in introducing mobile security policies. The survey was conducted among 68 IT managers, with 38 per cent coming from companies employing over 1,000 employees. ®

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