Spread of handheld devices raises security questions

Spread of handheld devices raises security questions

Wireless security is a major concern for agencies that deal with ever-more tech-savvy employees bringing to work handheld devices that don't mesh with federal security guidelines, said CDW Government Inc. president James R. Shanks.

As agencies are working to bolster network security, the proliferation of wireless devices is raising new security challenges, said Shanks, whose company is a subsidiary of IT reseller CDW Computer Centers Inc. of Vernon Hills, Ill.

But the CDWG official said most agencies and companies aren't far along in creating security policies for wireless use.

'It's really hard to manage,' added Larry S. Kirsch, senior vice president of CDWG. Wireless security 'is the biggest nut to crack for the federal government."

The potential mobilization of military troops for a war with Iraq is 'adding fuel to the fire,' Shanks said.

Meanwhile, agencies also are working to merge a vast range of applications for use on wireless devices and figure out how to manage the apps from central servers.

'Everybody now is more intelligent about these devices,' Kirsch said. He detailed his company's deployment at the Health and Human Services Department of BlackBerry wireless devices from Research In Motion Ltd. of Waterloo, Ontario. Over the past 18 months, thousands of HHS employees have begun using the devices. 'They bring them to work, set them down and plug them in' so they can synchronize their e-mail messages.

Some companies that develop wireless software have met with standards writers to better align their products to meet federal and commercial security needs, Kircsh said. And a few companies have begun to pitch products that inventory and update network administrators when any user taps into the server via a wireless device.

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