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6/23/2009
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Jake Widman
Jake Widman
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Apple Beefs Up iPhone Business Security Features

The new iPhone 3.0 OS and Configuration Utility 2.0 add several features aimed at satisfying enterprise IT departments. Some of them may be overkill for SMBs, but others will prove attractive to any business whose employees use iPhones for business.

The new iPhone 3.0 OS and Configuration Utility 2.0 add several features aimed at satisfying enterprise IT departments. Some of them may be overkill for SMBs, but others will prove attractive to any business whose employees use iPhones for business.Almost lost in the hubbub about the iPhone 3GS and the slick new user features in iPhone OS 3.0--the landscape keyboard, the multimedia messaging, the addition of copy and paste--are less glamorous enhancements to the device's role in a business environment.

Among the features that make the Blackberry such a good corporate citizen are those that enable an IT department to impose security and usage restrictions and manage them centrally. The iPhone has had some similar capabilities, but not nearly to the same level. The new iPhone OS 3.0 and the associated iPhone Configuration Utility 2.0, however, extend those abilities further--probably further than most SMBs need. But security-conscious businesses with iPhone-toting employees should still consider implementing some of the new features, if only the ones that wipe all the data off a lost or stolen device.

For example, the Configuration Utility enables you to create configuration profiles that comprise payloads. A payload is a particular type of setting, such as e-mail configurations, VPN setup, or calendar subscriptions, and a configuration profile collects groups of those settings. The profiles can be installed centrally or distributed via e-mail, and distributing different groups of profiles lets employees have different levels of access.

Among the available configuration settings are those controlling the device's passwords. You can use the Configuration Utility to establish what kind of password (length, complexity) is required, and you can set the device to wipe all data after a certain number of incorrect password attempts.

Besides the tools available with the Configuration Utility, SMBs with Microsoft Exchange servers can use Exchange ActiveSync to enforce security policies as well. Again, for example, Exchange ActiveSync can determine how many failed passwords result in wiping the iPhone clean.

ActiveSync also allows you to use the Exchange Management Console, Outlook Web Access, or Exchange ActiveSync Mobile Administration Web Tool (Exchange Server 2007), or the ActiveSync Mobile Administration Web Tool (Exchange Server 2003) to remotely wipe all the contents from an iPhone or iPod Touch.

The iPhone Configuration Utility is a free download from Apple. From that same page, you can download the iPhone Enterprise Deployment Guide (PDF), an 80-page tour of the management features available in iPhone OS 3.0 and Configuration Utility 2.0.

And for an extensive examination of how the features work and how they compare with what's available on the Blackberry, check out this overview from InfoWorld's Test Center.

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