Obama can't have a BlackBerry. Should your CEO?

Information security is not as strong as you may think, and the execs with the most sensitive data are juicy targets

The press has been all over President-Elect Barack Obama's addiction to his BlackBerry and the possibility that he might have to give it up for reasons of national security. But no one in the media seems to be asking the most logical follow-up question: Is the cybertechnology that can compromise the future chief executive's BlackBerry also a threat to mobile devices being used every day by thousands of senior executives in corporate America?

One security expert, Ron Cochoran, president of RER Technology, answers that question quite succinctly: "If the president can't use it for security reasons, then there's obviously something wrong with the security system."

The prohibition against BlackBerrys in the White House actually started with President George W. Bush's administration. "We made a judgment call prior to September 11, 2001, that people in the White House could not use a BlackBerry," recalls Joe Hagin, who served as deputy chief of staff for operations for seven years and is now the CEO of Jet Support Services, a jet-leasing company.

Ironically, the Bush White House suspended that policy for some staffers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. "On September 11, we had tremendous communications challenges, while people on the Hill [Congress] had communications [through their mobile devices]. I made the decision that we couldn't operate without them. We bought 200, then 400, and finally about 600. They are common around the executive branch, and more than just BlackBerrys."

But users of the White House mobile devices are restricted in what they can do, to reduce the chance of cyberespionage: GPS is disabled, no one is permitted to transmit classified data over an unsecured device, and mobile devices cannot be used overseas where the local networks are often vulnerable, Hagin says. As Hagin knows firsthand, there are many highly sophisticated cyberespionage tools available on the cheap and sold online that could compromise a government or a corporation.

Economic and national security at stake

While the consensus of opinion of the security experts InfoWorld consulted is that no system is 100 percent secure, they also agree that wireless technology is inherently less secure than a wired desktop behind a firewall. But even desktop-based communications systems may have more risks in their information being snooped once the e-mails, IMs, and so on leave your network.

So, what's at stake when your execs are using wireless devices such as smartphones and laptops, or working at home or at a coffee shop on their laptops? As it turns out, far more than a CEO's contact list and calendar. On the line, say the experts, are billions of dollars in proprietary intellectual property and the maintenance of a continuous flow of capital, the lifeblood of business. Not to mention the fact that as private industry supplies more and more services to the government, at risk is the infrastructure that directly affects our national security.

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.

Tags BlackberryBarack Obama

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ephraim Schwartz

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

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.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?