Giving employees access to Intranet information via their mobile phones poses a massive security threat that most companies are not prepared for.
According to analysts at Gartner Group, 95 per cent of handsets shipped in 2004 will be equipped with wireless application protocol (WAP) technology, which will provide access to a range of Internet services, including Intranet content and corporate email.
"This will create a bigger security threat than the one that caused the emergence of the firewall," said Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney, speaking on day two of Gartner Group Symposium in Cannes.
Advanced mobile devices, that incorporate a PDA and mobile phone, can be loaded with sensitive information in a "potentially very insecure environment," said another Gartner analyst, Nigel Deighton. "You could have you corporate business plan for the next five years on it."
Security is one of a host of management problems IS managers are experiencing with the wave of handheld devices among enterprise users. Deighton advises companies to trial with new mobile services and make sure they understand what the technology is capable of.
"It took them 10 years to catch up with PCs and this could be even worse," he said.
Another security risk for mobile users will emerge as the Bluetooth radio standard is implemented in wireless devices. Gartner predicts 75 per cent of new handsets shipped in 2004 will include Bluetooth.
"A real danger with Bluetooth is that you could be walking down the street and catching a virus - unaware," said Deighton. No Bluetooth products are expected before next year and security is still being tightened up.
One technology that may help corporations defend themselves is a PDA firewall. IBM and Extended Systems have early products, but it could be two years before standardised products reach the market.
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