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Wireless e-mail a primary security concern

A new survey points out mobile anxieties among companies -- and wireless e-mail tops the list.

A recent survey of roughly 600 IT professionals found wireless e-mail is the biggest security concern when a company deploys mobile computing capabilities.

According to the survey, conducted for Santa Clara, Calif.-based handheld service and software provider Good Technology Inc., 79% of the respondents consider e-mail the greatest potential security risk among applications on mobile devices. Another 29% cited corporate intranet applications as their greatest perceived risk.

The Good Technology survey, conducted by Zoomerang, an online market research firm, polled IT professionals from companies with 150 to 16,000 employees in a variety of vertical industries.

Of those who responded, 48% said firewall vulnerability is especially worrisome. The study defines firewall vulnerability as having to open firewall holes to allow inbound wireless device traffic, which increases the risk of denial-of-service attacks or other unauthorized intrusion. Thirty percent of respondents said they would not deploy a system that requires opening firewall ports, making perimeter security a top priority when selecting a mobile e-mail product.

Handheld security, defined as protecting data on a device if it is lost or stolen, is a wireless security concern for 29% polled.

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Elsewhere, the study found that 59% of respondents said they wouldn't deploy a mobile application that does not encrypt data on the device. Additionally, 65% of IT professionals said wireless enforcement of virus protection, along with the ability to update virus files over the air, is an extremely important handheld security feature.

Remote control of password policy was also important to respondents; 55% said it is a critical requirement, while only 18% said they are comfortable with just user name and password authentication.

Lastly, 57% said the ability to wirelessly specify applications that must be present on the device is important, the survey found.

"The enterprise mobile e-mail and handheld computing markets have grown exponentially over the past five years," Rick Osterloh, Good Technology's vice president of product management and marketing, said in a statement. "But this growth has created a corresponding surge in security vulnerability over the same time period."

The study concluded that the ability to detect and control applications on handhelds remains a huge concern, but most companies do not have a standard operating procedure to address that issue. Seventy percent of respondents had no automated mechanism to determine which applications users had installed on their devices. Only 53% were able to enforce security and password policies consistently and effectively on devices without end-user dependency.

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