Is mobile security 'the new Y2K'?

With more mobile devices, greater staff mobility and more portable data moving around within organisations than ever before, senior IT execs have been told securing this pressing threat is "the new Y2K".

With more mobile devices, greater staff mobility and more portable data moving around within organisations than ever before, senior IT execs have been told securing this pressing threat is "the new Y2K".

According to independent research from Dynamic Markets, 63 per cent of IT managers admit they don't have the problem under control. A similar number of respondents (60 per cent) said they didn't know how many mobile devices were in use on their network or whether they were properly secured.

Many would suggest that assessment actually shows some naivety given 40 per cent are fairly unlikely to have a handle on the proliferation of unaccounted iPods, PDAs, removable media and smart phones in particular, which enter and leave organisations each day. Yet Jan Jivmark, director EMEA at LANDesk, who commissioned the research, believes the findings are still worrying enough to dub this threat "the new Y2K".

The report found the biggest concern among IT managers is the risk of malware entering the network on mobile devices - cited by 46 per cent of respondents. Only 26 per cent believed not knowing what data is entering or leaving the network was their biggest concern.

Despite such concerns 86 per cent of respondents believe their companies should continue to embrace mobility, though there is clearly much to do.

Tony Caputo, CEO of SafeNet, told silicon.com mobility in itself is not the real issue. It's about identity, not mobility per se.

"Mobility is certainly a factor now but no more so than a number of other issues which represent a change in the way companies do business," said Caputo.

It's not just that staff are more mobile but that mobile data is likely to come into contact with more devices, more networks and more individuals outside the organisation than in traditional business models, added Caputo. "Identity management and role-based security are critical."

Caputo believes this is as true of network use within the organisation, from fixed desktops or from mobile devices on the move, on site or within partner organisations.

"Traditional methods of security - where you either let people onto your network or not - are no longer relevant," he added.

Silicon.com's Will Sturgeon reported from London.