July 12, 2002
PDAs have revolutionized the way many people work and organize their lives. But for all their benefits, the small devices are easy to lose, and when they go, data goes with them. As companies issue PDAs to their employees, loss or theft can present a massive breach in company security, exposing everything from customer lists to network passwords.
PDA security must be taken seriously, says Gartner research director John Girard. New PDAs with more memory and access to enterprise applications are compounding security problems. A PDA "is like a miniature workstation carrying secure information, and nobody's paying attention to it," he says. But there's hope for beleaguered IT managers who don't want to worry about yet another security leak. Last week, systems integrator Asynchrony Solutions Inc. released a new version of PDA Defense Enterprise, software that lets administrators mandate security settings and push them to PDAs when they synchronize. Installed on a server and managed through a Windows-based editor, the software lets administrators set up groups with security policies. The software also protects sensitive data through those group policies, preventing people from storing particular files on their PDAs. If a user needs a sensitive document, the software will password-protect and encrypt the data. The tool also shuts down access to the PDA, even wiping its memory, upon a specified number of incorrect password attempts. Several other apps compete with PDA Defense Enterprise, though most just encrypt and password-protect data. Only PDA Secure Enterprise, from Applied Technologies Inc.'s Trust Digital division, has a central management tool like Asynchrony's. Trust Digital marketing VP Kevin Shahbazi argues that PDA Defense Enterprise isn't the best tool to plug a PDA's holes. "We're dedicated to security," Shahbazi says. "When you want to go to a dentist, do you go to someone who knows teeth, or do you go to an ophthalmologist?" PDA Defense Enterprise works with multiple hardware and software platforms, including BlackBerry, Palm, and Pocket PC devices. License fees start at $30 per PDA, with a minimum of 50 devices.
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