Sensitive Industries Must Confront Mobile Security

Carl Weinschenk

Something doesn't sit quite right concerning this Bank Technology News story. It's not the fault of the writer -- who did a fine job of amassing and presenting information. What rankles is the sense that the banking, insurance, and financial services industries -- the piece seems to have been written for all three -- is just getting up to speed on the need for wireless and mobile security.

IT managers and certain enlightened corporate executives have been talking for years about the growing danger of mobility. There is headline after headline about lost and stolen laptops, each seemingly carrying more data than we knew could be shoehorned onto a hard drive. Why, then, does an article aimed at companies that handle as much sensitive data as banks, insurance firms or brokerages seem so basic?

One possible explanation, offered about midway through the article, is that financial institutions are by nature conservative organizations and may simply not want to be involved in an area that, from a security point of view, can only be described as pretty darned scary. It's also quite possible that financial services really isn't lagging. Perhaps they know more than this piece suggests.

Whether or not companies in these sectors are keeping pace shouldn't be the question. They should be way ahead. In addition to handling extraordinarily sensitive data, they must comply with a host of legal and regulatory rules such as those dictated by the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council (FFIEC), which take effect at the beginning of 2007. To think that they are just getting wise to the dangers of wireless security is unsettling.

IT departments at financial services companies should use what bully pulpit they have to push corporate decision makers to do the right thing on wireless security. They must get across perhaps the most important point: The nature of wireless and mobile is such that there really is no such thing as sitting it out. If a company decides not to mobilize, it will be introduced from the ground up by employees. In the world of new product development, this bottoms-up approach is known as viral marketing. Let's hope that the term doesn't develop a double meaning when it comes to mobility in the insurance, banking and financial services industries.

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