Careless PDA use becomes corporate nightmare

It's just another 'key to the office' which you can leave in the back of a cab...
Written by Munir Kotadia, Contributor

It's just another 'key to the office' which you can leave in the back of a cab...

Billions of pounds continue to be wasted each year on corporate security that is easily bypassed because so many employees leave unprotected passwords and corporate information on their personal digital assistants (PDAs), according to a recent survey. The second annual PDA Usage Survey, which was carried out on behalf of Pointsec Mobile Technologies, has discovered that a third of PDA owners store work passwords and cash machine PIN numbers on their PDAs, but do not secure access to their PDA in case the device is stolen or lost. The survey also highlighted that the role of PDAs has changed in the past year. Whereas in 2002 their main use was as a personal organiser, this year the top function is as a business diary. Magnus Ahlberg, the managing director of Pointsec, is worried because PDA users are not aware of the "serious implications" that arise if a device is lost or stolen. "It takes merely seconds to synchronise information from a PDA if it is unencrypted and not password protected. Alternatively, with the development of wireless technology, a competitor or hacker could sit in the coffee bar next to your office and get access directly into your corporate network," he said in a statement. According to the survey, around 40 per cent of people have lost a mobile phone and one in four people have lost a laptop or PDA. This is worrying because only around 25 per cent of companies have specific security policies for mobile devices. This makes them an obvious target for thieves, opportunists, hackers and even competitors. If an opportunist came across a PDA containing corporate data that wasn't encrypted, it would be "relatively easy" for that person to assume the identity of the user, according to the survey. Around 20 per cent of missing PDAs are left in a pub, restaurant or nightclub; but the biggest threat is the back of a taxi, where 40 per cent of lost devices end up. According to the survey, the top 10 uses for a PDA in 2003 are: 1. Business diary 85 per cent
2. Business names and addresses 80 per cent
3. Personal names and addresses 79 per cent
4. Personal diary 75 per cent
5. Entertainment - games & music 48 per cent
6. Documents/spreadsheets 35 per cent
7. Store passwords/PIN numbers 33 per cent
8. Receive and view emails 32 per cent
9. Store bank account details 25 per cent
10. Store corporate information 25 per cent Munir Kotadia writes for ZDNet.co.uk
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