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11/8/2006
12:30 PM
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Microsoft Pushes Back

Redmond insists its Windows Mobile email is secure enough for enterprise users

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) is answering an analyst report critizing the security in its new direct push email system for Windows.

Redmond tells Unstrung that its email system already offers security levels sufficient for enterprise users and that it is working on updates.

The rebuttal was sparked by a report issued last week by Jack Gold at J.Gold Associates contending that the way Microsoft sends mobile email could leave data on the device insecure. (See Microsoft's Push Security Problems.)

"There are a lot of things that he missed," says John Starkweather, group product manager for Windows Mobile.

Gold said that data is left unencrypted on the device, which presents a security risk. Starkweather says that there is a good reason for not encrypting data on the device, and that Microsoft has instead built in other safeguards.

"The problem with that is that it's a feature that hardly anybody uses because it slows down the device so much," Starkweather says.

Instead, Microsoft's OS has a feature that wipes out Microsoft data (Outlook and other attachments) if the device is lost or stolen or if the password is entered incorrectly too many times. Redmond has also opened up the API [programming hooks] so that third parties can take advantage of the same feature.

Starkweather also says that the SSL link that Microsoft uses to transmit email data is secure enough for enterprise use. "It's the same connection mechanism that a business would use for a PC," he notes.

In general, Starkweather says that companies have not yet grasped the full importance of securing sensitive data on mobile devices, and that more work needs to be done on user education. "I think that the biggest challenge for the industry is educating users," he says.

The next major round of security updates will come with the next version of Windows Mobile, codenamed "Crossbow," which Starkweather says should be available on handsets in the second half of 2007.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

Dan is to hats what Will.I.Am is to ridiculous eyewear. Fedora, trilby, tam-o-shanter -- all have graced the Jones pate during his career as the go-to purveyor of mobile essentials. But hey, Dan is so much more than 4G maps and state-of-the-art headgear. Before joining the ... View Full Bio

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