Expect a rocky road for mobile data security, experts say

High-speed Internet access handsets vulnerable to same security problems PCs experienced before the advent of firewalls,VPNs and other security systems

You're in for a nasty surprise if you think mobile broadband devices will be free of the security problems that long have plagued PCs, said a panel of security experts at this week's Mobile Internet World conference.

The panel, which discussed how companies could protect their data in the era of iPhones and open source Android platforms, generally agreed that most handsets that provide high-speed Internet access are vulnerable to the same kinds of security problems that PCs experienced before the advent of firewalls,VPNs and other security systems. The reason that many of these devices lack stringent security measures, they said, is that companies don't want to invest heavily in security protocols for mobile devices that they aren't certain will be profitable. Rather, said the panel, the companies would prefer to get their handsets to market first and tackle security at a later date.

"Security is not at the economic root of what's driving companies to get their products out fast," said Jeffrey Bardin, the director of risk management at EMC. "We always start looking at security after the fact. Who's going to spend time upfront to make it secure if you're not sure it's even going to sell?"

Panelist Todd Thiemann, the director for device security marketing for Trend Micro, said there are several weak links in mobile Internet security, but he said the weakest by far are the individual users who might not know the dangers of sending sensitive corporate data over unsecured mobile connections. "Most people are used to their cell phone being bulletproof and not causing issues," he said.

The panelists suggested several steps corporations could take to limit the risks of data loss through mobile devices, including educating users about how to send sensitive data properly over a wireless connection, having policies on what employees can and cannot send through their wireless devices, ensuring that all data is encrypted and sent through corporate infrastructure, and having a "kill switch" that completely wipes a mobile device if it gets lost or stolen.

However, Bardin said that responsibility for securing mobile broadband devices shouldn't lie just with customers, but also with carriers and manufacturers. In particular, he said that manufactures and software developers would have to figure out a way to build strong security features onto mobile devices that aren't too big a strain on battery power.

"When I install antivirus software on my mobile device, it slows to a crawl," Bardin said. "The battery life gets cut in half, and I'm not able to use it all the time."

Sean Moshir, CEO of CellTrust, shared Bardin's view that carriers, software designers and manufacturers would have to collaborate to build more security into mobile phones, but added that educating users was at the "top of his list" of recommendations for improving mobile data security.

"Educating the consumer is a long-term task," Moshir said. "Carriers are going to do their best to secure their handsets, but I wouldn't rely on them, especially if their call quality and their number of calls dropped are any indication of whether they know what they're doing."

In the end, the panelists predicted that companies eventually would treat mobile Internet devices in the same way they treat PCs, although they could be in for a lot of painful experiences if they don't start working on mobile data security soon.

"We're generally slow on the uptake," said Bardin. "A lot of the time, we don't see some of the benefits to investing early in security until something happens."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Brad Reed

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?