Questions Raised About Windows Mobile 5 Security

Carl Weinschenk

By all accounts, Microsoft has paid attention to the security concerns of users and made progress during the past year or so. That upward trend is expected to continue through the introduction of Windows Vista, its next PC operating system.


The outlook may not be as sanguine when it comes to the vendor's mobile initiatives, however. A story says that Jack Gold, the founder and principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, has detailed a rather troubling insecurity in Windows Mobile 5.


The data on handsets using the OS isn't encrypted. The only on-board security is a password. That, Gold assumes, won't be enough for many businesses.


So it should be a case of wait and see -- or, more accurately, research and ask -- for businesses considering which mobile e-mail vendor to go with. In the current environment, vendors are falling over themselves to find a way to secure mobile devices.


For instance, Panasonic's P903i -- which is being used by NTT DoCoMo -- communicates via Bluetooth with a small card the owner holds onto. If the phone and card are separated by more than a few feet, the connection is severed and the device shuts down.


It is crunch time for mobile security. Devices are gaining in storage and processing power. However, legal, regulatory, business and common sense requirements demand that devices be reasonably secure before they are allowed to carry, send or receive valuable information outside the enterprise. It's not a good time for Microsoft to come up short.


A lot of vendors do get the message. The piece points out that other companies -- Good Technology, Sybase and Research in Motion are named -- enable on-board mobile device encryption. If Gold's analysis is true and if there is no easy fix, Microsoft's mobile efforts will be in real trouble.

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