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12/31/2009
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Tech Insight: After The Holidays, It's Time To Re-Examine Smartphone Policies

With new portable devices coming out of the wrapping paper, how can enterprise security keep up?

'Twas the season for stockings stuffed with smartphones -- phones that include more computing power and functionality than computers might have wished for a decade ago. For enterprises, however, these "gifts" could be costly.

New toys, like iPhones, BlackBerrys, and the new Motorola Droid, give us around-the-clock connectivity that comes at a price not only to employees' personal time, but also to enterprise information security; just look at the recent attacks against "jailbroken" iPhones to steal personal data.

President Barack Obama's addiction to his BlackBerry is a testament to the need of today's society to have within reach the means to check e-mail, send text messages, and browse the Web. Of course, those are the more ordinary tasks. Smartphones now give us the capability to play online games, use instant messaging services, stay in touch with social networking sites, and much more. But what should companies do to secure these mobile communications and the data stored on such portable devices?

That's a question many IT workers will be facing as they ring in the new year. Many users will be returning to work with new Droids, iPhones, and even iPod Touches in-hand that they "need" connected ASAP to check email, access corporate intranets, and update statuses on social networks.

These requests and activities give rise to tough questions. Who's responsible for managing the security of "personal" devices that connect to the corporate network? What happens if a device capable of connecting to enterprise systems is lost? Should encryption be mandatory on portable devices that are used for work?

If it's a C-level executive with a new Droid, sometimes policies go out the window. However, that's not always the case. The key to dealing with smartphones -- and, really, any new whiz-bang hardware or software -- is to have policies for introducing them into the current infrastructure.

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