Net devices increase security risks

Companies increase their chances of hacker attack as they begin delivering their content and services to mobile devices, consoles...

Companies increase their chances of hacker attack as they begin delivering their content and services to mobile devices, consoles and television sets, according to Gartner analysts.

"It's a frightening world for security specialists," said Gartner analyst Rich Mogull at the company's Symposium/ITxpo in Florida. "For years we had a lot of control over our systems. Not any more."

Mogull pointed out that many of broadband and mobile devices are inherently insecure, lacking solid and proven security technology. To make matters worse, the hurried adoption of new mechanisms to deliver data to these devices waters down the protection of internal systems, he claimed.

Users' demands for access to their content and services across all these devices are promoting a confusing set of standards, platforms and delivery mechanisms.

Many of these new devices have short lives and are quickly replaced by more advanced models. This means that security measures adopted by IT departments to deal with these devices rapidly become obsolete. And a "killer" device that provides a wide variety of functions will not appear until at least 2005, Mogull said.

So-called "fixed devices," such as gaming consoles and digital satellites, are prone to hacking, he claimed. Mobile devices are even more vulnerable, because not only can they be physically lost or stolen, but their transmissions can be easily intercepted, a breach that could enable data theft and virus infections.

Gartner recommends the best way to deal with the problem is to deliver data and services to these devices via a browser in a typical thin-client architecture. The browser will continue to be the most popular, most tested and safest interface for these purposes, as opposed to these devices' proprietary interfaces. In fact, Gartner estimates the browser will be a supported user interface in 80% of new access devices that connect to the Web until at least 2005.

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