Interop: Enterprises Lax On Mobile Security

Most corporations treat smartphones as second-class citizens when it comes to protecting against threats and vulnerabilities, panelists say.



Companies that are normally buttoned down when it comes to IT security are failing to apply the same safeguards to their mobile devices and infrastructures, according to experts who spoke on a panel Wednesday at the Interop IT Conference and Expo in New York City.

"I don't think enterprises are a taking mobile security seriously enough," said InformationWeek.com editor in chief Alex Wolfe. "In a lot of businesses, smartphone provisioning is the province of low-level clerks," said Wolfe.

Part of the problem, Wolfe said, is that to date most high-profile security breaches, like a 2006 incident that hit credit bureau Equifax, have involved stolen laptops or hacked networks—but that's going to change as mobile devices achieve greater penetration in the enterprise. "We're going to have breaches, and there's going to be finger pointing," said Wolfe.

Another issue is that, with the possible exception of RIM's BlackBerry, most mobile devices are designed with consumers in mind, and don't offer the security management features commonly found on business PCs and servers. "The vendors are going where the money is," said moderator Paul DeBeasi, a research VP at Gartner.

To reduce mobile vulnerability, enterprises may have to limit the number of operating systems they support in order to achieve a manageable footprint. That means workers may have to settle for the tried and true BlackBerry rather than the latest iPhone or Android phone—at least when it comes to mission critical applications and sensitive data.

"Whether or not you can appease the guy who wants an iPhone with a touch-screen BlackBerry, some guys are just going to have to take it" said Michael Brandenburg, technical editor at TechTarget.

Regardless of which device employees are carrying, enterprise security pros can ensure their mobile environments are locked down by treating smartphones as they would any other computer on their network.

"A lot of the rules that apply to your laptop should apply to your BlackBerry or your iPad," said panelist Craig Mathias, principal at consulting firm Farpoint Group.

Interop, hosted by InformationWeek.com publisher UBM Techweb, runs through Oct. 22 at the Javits Center on Manhattan's West Side.

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