Fleet News

Report highlights PDA security risk

EMPLOYEES including company car drivers are putting companies' profits at risk with the growing use of handheld computers that can hold masses of critical data with little security protection.

New research has revealed that a third of employees are leaving business information and access details unprotected on their personal digital assistants, or PDAs.

This not only provides easy pickings for common thieves, but also provides an entry key to corporate systems for opportunists, hackers or competitors, according to the PDA Usage Survey 2003.

Commissioned by Pointsec Mobile Technologies and conducted by Infosecurity Europe and Computer Weekly, the survey found PDA owners commonly download the entire contents of their personal and business lives on to their handheld computers – with many leaving the information unencrypted and without password protection.

Sensitive information commonly stored unprotected on PDAs includes corporate information, bank accounts, credit card details, Social Security numbers, Inland Revenue information, business and personal names and addresses.

One third also stored their personal passwords and PIN numbers without using the PDA's password function to protect them.

In total, 41% are using their PDAs to access their corporate network, with a quarter of them bypassing the password function.

Furthermore, 57% do not encrypt the corporate data held on their PDA, making it relatively easy for an unauthorised person to use the computer to access a corporate network and assume the identity of the user.

Recent Home Office figures suggested ID fraud costs the country more than £1.3 billion every year and takes the average victim of identity theft 300 hours to put their records straight.

The most notorious place for losing a mobile device such as a phone, laptop or PDA is in a taxi (40%), closely followed by bars, restaurants and nightclubs (20%).

Despite the high risk, 73% of companies still do not have a specific security policy for mobile devices.

Top 10 uses for PDAs

  • Business diary: 85%
  • Store business names and addresses: 80%
  • Store personal names and addresses: 79%
  • As a personal diary: 75%
  • For entertainment - games/music etc: 48%
  • Create documents/spreadsheets: 35%
  • To store passwords/PIN numbers: 33%
  • To receive and view emails: 32%
  • To store bank account details: 25%
  • To store corporate information: 25%

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