Fleet News

PDA – a huge security risk or a sat-nav breakthrough?

PERSONAL digital assistants (PDAs) are no longer seen as just electronic diaries but can be used for a range of fleet needs, including satellite navigation, tracking vehicles and fleet management.

Two separate studies were published this month showing fleets two sides to the PDA, one looking at the advantages of using it as a GPS sat-nav tool and the other highlighting its pitfalls owing to security failings.

We have used these findings to show how PDAs can help and hinder fleets trying to forge ahead with technology.

ADVANTAGES

Sat-NAV has become one of the most requested options on fleet vehicles, but as the competition heats up, it seems manufacturer-fitted systems no longer have the monopoly they used to.

A report published by technical consultant SBD has shown that the popularity of sat-nav systems has surged during the past four years, with PDAs able to link in to GPS taking a greater share of the market.

David Bell, managing director at SBD, said: ‘Vehicle telematics is a fast-developing area of the auto industry and one that is steadily making a bigger impact with customers.

‘Our analysis of the market and developments in modern technology shows that many manufacturers are facing pressure to bring costs down if they are to meet the competition provided by cheaper options, such as mobile phones and PDAs.’

PDA sat-nav systems have fallen in price since they entered the market and SBD predicts they will have a 30% share of the European market by the end of 2004.

As prices continue to dip and technology continues to improve, fleets are in a win-win situation. PDA sat-nav can cost just a couple of hundred pounds but a manufacturer’s system can cost thousands.

DISADVANTAGES

Employees storing confidential and irreplaceable information on PDAs could be jeopardising their employers’ security and profits.

New research has shown that two-thirds of PDAs are used to store clients’ details and corporate information without adequate protection. In some cases, there isn’t even a password.

Magnus Ahlberg, managing director at Pointsec Mobile Technologies which completed the study, said: ‘Companies are underestimating, or are totally unaware of, the amount of valuable information which is being stored on personal and business mobile devices.

‘Our advice is that companies should ensure they have a mobile security policy and that all data is protected by centrally-managed encryption and password protection.’

The Mobile Vulnerability Survey 2004 showed that almost half of PDAs are used to receive and view corporate emails and a third are used as a mobile phone. However, as more than 30% of respondents do not use password protection, Pointsec says stolen or lost PDAs are one of the fastest and easiest ways to access corporate data.

Ahlberg added: ‘As well as using PDAs to store company information, many users store valuable personal information such as PINs, bank account details, social security numbers, credit card information and even lists of passwords, many of which can be accessed, ironically, without a password.’

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