Managers fret about security for wireless units

The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey on enterprise wireless trends is based on telephone interviews with 100 government readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as IT or systems managers.

When the subject is wireless technologies, security vulnerabilities are what first spring to the minds of government IT managers.

In a GCN telephone survey, 69 percent of managers cited security concerns as the biggest stumbling block to incorporating wireless technologies into their agency's IT environments.

'We can't use any current wireless technologies because of the security issues,' said an Army security specialist in Springfield, Va.

'It's not hard to compromise wireless networks,' said a Coast Guard IT specialist in Milwaukee.

'Some security systems [for wireless systems] are not mature enough to be implemented,' said a Federal Retirement Board computer technician in Washington.

But not all of the managers we polled shared those concerns. 'I think the security issue is overblown,' said a systems manager at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.

'Some [wireless] protocols are very secure,' noted an Agriculture Department computer specialist in Stevens Point, Wis.

Others found a middle ground.

'We are comfortable [with the current level of wireless security], but security is still something that has be dealt with,' said a Census Bureau IT specialist in Washington, adding that his organization plans to implement wireless access to the network for remote users in the next couple of years.

'I am comfortable, but we cannot be stagnant when it comes to security,' said a Veterans Affairs Department IT specialist in Philadelphia.

For 38 percent of the managers we talked with, lack of funds for wireless projects was a difficulty, and another 8 percent said deploying wireless infrastructures was just too expensive. Ten percent said getting senior management to buy in to wireless systems was a problem, while 16 percent said there was simply no urgency to add wireless systems.

A few offered up other barriers.

Interference from other devices is a concern, said an Air Force network manager at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.

A Commerce Department systems administrator in Newport, Ore., said the lack of qualified personnel to oversee wireless systems at his office was a major problem.

Despite the current liabilities, three-quarters of survey participants said wireless would be more important to enterprise IT environments in the future.

Nonetheless, only 21 percent of current nonusers (58 percent of managers in the survey sample) reported plans to incorporate wireless into their environments

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