Large organisations are leaving their networks vulnerable to attack by failing to police unofficial use of mobile e-mail devices by their staff, Gartner will warn this week.
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Staff are often tempted to link their personal mobile devices to the work e-mail system, particularly when they see senior staff with Blackberries or similar devices. But this can create serious security holes in networks, which can allow hackers, viruses and other malware into corporate systems, said analyst Monica Basso.
Some companies are so relaxed about their staff using personal devices to link to corporate e-mail that they allow them to redirect their corporate e-mail to public internet sites and use their own devices to synchronise, she said.
Gartner estimates that the number of mobile e-mail devices in use will grow from eight million to more than 80 million worldwide in the next three years, making wireless security a top priority for IT departments.
Businesses should buy scalable mobile e-mail systems and consider offering them to a wider range of employees, rather than restricting them to a few senior executives, she said.
Basso advised IT departments to make sure that data stored on wireless devices is encrypted, and to invest in systems that can remotely block access or wipe data if devices are lost.
But it is important to take a balanced approach to security, said Basso. Some organisations have refused to deploy Blackberry devices because they are concerned that e-mails could be intercepted at the Blackberry control centres. "We don't believe this is a real threat," she said.