Agencies must intensify wireless security efforts, consultant says

Securing wireless networks remains a challenge for agencies that have to fit security into their business cases but must work under policies that lag behind the rapid advance of technology, a federal-sector consultant said today.

'Technology is the simple part,' said Howard Stern, senior vice president of FSI of McLean, Va. 'It's all the other stuff around the technology,' from setting business practices to educating users, 'that's the hard part.'

Mobile devices can perform an ever-increasing number of functions, including tracking assets, protecting the homeland and communicating instantly, Stern said, so agencies more than ever need sound policies on wireless security.

'As we move into wireless applications, security becomes even more important than it did in landline operations,' he said, speaking at a wireless security forum sponsored by Hewlett-Packard Co. in Washington.

With that in mind, agencies must score at least a 4 out of 5 in security on the Office of Management and Budget e-government scorecards, 'or you won't get funded even if you get a five on everything else,' he said.

Agencies must build security into their entire wireless packages, Stern said, from the behind-the-scenes network infrastructure to the device itself to the software it runs. Otherwise, he said, the defense remains ineffective.

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