Attacks/Breaches
10/23/2008
02:35 AM
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Startup Promises to Monitor, Block Text Messaging

TextGuard says it can reduce the likelihood of data leaks from a wide variety of mobile devices

When it comes to mobile devices, two words can strike fear into the hearts of IT and security managers: "Text me." As the popularity of PDAs, cellphones, and smartphones grows, many administrators are worried that company secrets may be escaping through the unmonitored door of popular text messaging tools -- or that unwanted data and malware might be seeping in.

But a new company, TextGuard, thinks it may have developed an answer. A week ago, the startup quietly released a beta version of its eponymous application, which offers a method of blocking and monitoring text messages on Windows Mobile and Blackberry telephones.

The technology will help companies track the messages that are texted by their employees, while also helping them block spam and other attacks that might be delivered via popular SMS devices, TextGuard says. The technology also could allow parents to monitor and filter the text messages of their children, the company says.

"Every day, more and more companies are using text spam to advertise their products and messages, and unfortunately, many carriers are selling their phone lists to the highest bidder," says Todd Cohan, president of TextGuard. "This means that mobile telephones and devices have become a popular new target for spamming attacks, and there is now a great new need to protect them."

TextGuard says it has developed an application that allows users to block incoming text messages by simply entering a designated number on their phones. This approach "helps businesses monitor employee phones and lets company administrators lock devices down, monitor messages, archive messages, and keep harmful mobile spyware off company phones," the company says.

Among its capabilities, TextGuard can filter and search messages by subject or keyword, observers note. It can filter and search message files, as well as attachments, and it monitors all incoming and outgoing messages and archives texts on a secured server. In addition, it can block text and SMS spam.

Some observers expressed concern that TextGuard might also be used as spyware by the bad guys, if they can find simple methods to download the software to the phones of unsuspecting users. With TextGuard, a criminal could potentially eavesdrop on text messages and steal data from the end user.

But Cohan says he developed the software primarily to block intrusive incoming messages. In fact, in a newspaper report, Cohan said he came up with the idea after a woman he met online refused to stop text-messaging him.

"I remember feeling how intrusive texting could be and couldn't believe there was no way to stop someone from texting me," Cohan told the newspaper. With TextGuard, an employer or parent can log in from anywhere in the world and read all the messages and block texts from being sent or received, he said.

"Even when a sender is blocked, you can still see every message that was attempted to be sent to that number," Cohan said.

The software can be downloaded for a free 60-day trial. After that, it's priced at $11.95 a month.

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