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Mobile & Wireless World: It's still about security

Balancing ROI and security concerns is hard to do, users say

By David Ramel
May 27, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Wireless adoption in the enterprise, widely seen as a productivity booster, continues to be hampered by security concerns, according to speakers and users here at Computerworld's Mobile & Wireless World conference.
"I'm constantly getting hacked," said Majid Zahedi, an applications specialist at Forty-Niner Shops Inc., which provides bookstore and food services at California State University in Long Beach. He was referring to server statistics that show constant probes launched against his network.
The company has some remote users who need wireless access, but securing the network is "my main concern right now," Zahedi said. It's especially unnerving, he said, to "see the kids with their [mobile] computers trying to sniff out our information" with Wi-Fi sniffers.
Zahedi said security is so worrisome that he's recommending to the company's board of directors that they remove all wireless networks.
While other companies may not be ready just yet to give up on wireless because of security, such concerns are the main impediment to widespread wireless adoption, according to 46% of attendees who voted in an instant poll during the conference.
Lynn Carson, a PC support manager at International Sematech in Austin, said his company within the past five months provided complete wireless access to its headquarters building. But the project was delayed by security considerations. "Security was the big detriment to rolling that out," he said. "It kept us from moving faster on the project."
Scott Richards, vice president of product management at Senforce Technologies Inc. in Orem, Utah, said during a panel discussion that companies have long had to deal with "a balancing act between productivity and security," and that has been magnified with the spread of mobility devices. Companies used to have a safe network perimeter protected by firewalls and the like, he said, but now they must secure each device that extends beyond that perimeter.

"Data is flowing through the air, and there are some security issues with that," Richards said.
Those issues sometimes become all too real. Panel member Marty Menard, an executive at Intel Corp., mentioned during the discussion that someone once "snooped" the e-mail of 10 to 12 vice presidents in an Intel facility in Oregon. The hole has been patched, he quickly noted.
Lost and stolen mobile devices are another security problem. Though losing a device may be rare, "there are concerns there," Richards said.
Like it or not, he said, most companies must address these security concerns. Through "viral deployment" -- unauthorized devices being brought in by users -- or officially sanctioned efforts, "you do have mobility," he said. Richards

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