By Max Clarke

Smartphones are spreading throughout the business world; their use growing across organisations and at all levels. And with this proliferation comes a host of unique security concerns for users and businesses.

According to Gartner, sales of mobile devices in the second quarter of 2011 grew 16.5 percent year-on-year. Smartphone sales grew 74 percent year-on-year and accounted for 25 percent of overall sales in the second quarter of 2011, up from 17 percent in the second quarter of 2010.

Not only are the numbers of smartphones growing, their versatility is increasing. Where staff used to carry laptops when they went out of the office, to retrieve email and use other applications on the move, they can now carry just a smartphone.

This potentially allows them to send and receive emails, use a variety of applications, link to the company network to access data and use network-based applications, access social networking sites, and carry out online e-commerce and banking transactions.

A smartphone raises key security issues, which many organisations have not fully realised yet or, if they have, they may not have taken appropriate measures to ensure network safety.

The dangers
The biggest danger, of course, is that smartphones go missing. Many of us will have lost a mobile phone in the past or know someone who has. Research by getsafeonline shows that about one in five owners of smartphone devices can expect to lose or have them stolen at some point. Surveys show the level of phone loss in London taxis is at a world-leading, and fairly consistent, 10,000 per month. Yes, that’s right, 10,000 per month!

Smartphones are often used for both business and personal reasons and if they are lost, both sensitive company data and personal data stored on the phone may be exposed. Email exchanges could be seen. Personal data relating to online purchasing or banking might be viewed.

If the phone is connected via a VPN, company networks are exposed to malware or could be hacked. Philippe Winthrop, an analyst at consultancy Strategy Analytics Inc., commented: "If I take your device and muck around with it, what if the VPN is set up on it? It's a huge risk not being dealt with enough today."

Getsafeonline’s Tony Neate says: "Users must remember that they are essentially carrying around a tiny laptop with a wealth of personal information that is very attractive to fraudsters,"

Smartphones are now at the stage that PCs were at around 1999. Many people didn’t think security was necessary then, hardly anyone had firewalls, but security concerns were beginning to be a focus. It’s a similar situation now with smartphones.

For example, last year the MMS Bomber virus affected millions of mobile users in China, costing them significant sums dialling out on their phones.

It doesn't take long for criminals to think of ways of stealing and using information fraudulently. Some security experts have pointed out that targeting smartphones could potentially be more profitable for criminals than aiming at computers.

Security tips
There are a number of basic security procedures which organisations and individuals can take to increase security.

* Use the PIN or passcode function to secure the phone. Don’t rely on the
default factory settings.

* Install data wiping facilities so critical information can be destroyed if it’s thought the phone has fallen into the wrong hands. This might happen, if for example, a password is entered wrongly a certain number of times, or when a device has been off the network for a certain period of time.

* Employ time out policies, to prevent further use of the phone, if it is inactive for a certain period of time. This should be initiated from a central management console.

* Install GPS tracking so the phone can be located if stolen.

* Install SIM watch. This reports the new number back to you if the SIM is removed and replaced

* Take a note of your International Mobile Equipment Identity number. The IMEI number is used by the GSM network to identify valid devices and therefore can be used for stopping a stolen phone from accessing the network in that country. It’s easy to find on most phones by typing *#06# into the keypad.

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