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As consumerisation is predicted to be a key challenge for IT managers this year, could the smartphone be to blame?

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In what is set to be a consistent theme for 2011, the future of smartphone security, along with challenges regarding ownership and responsibility, have been debated by industry spokespeople.

Smartphone use and security was debated by a panel at the Infosecurity Europe exhibition's press conference in London.

Chairing the debate, Nigel Stanley, practice leader at Bloor Research, called the smartphone ‘the only piece of IT that we take to bed with us' and said that as the demand for them increases, they are more of a target for attackers and he had seen a huge exploit interest increase within the hacker community over the past year.

John Colley, managing director of (ISC)2 EMEA, said: “One of the things from my background is that they are attractive and people want to use them. As security people we see problems and do not allow them into the corporation and the problem is that the people who want to use them are at board level and as a security professional it is hard to say that they cannot use it. They will say to the IT team to fix the problem and let me use it.”

Colley also said that it is a question of ownership, depending on whether the device is issued by a company or if employees are allowed to use their own devices. “If you use your own PC for work most IT managers would forbid that and ownership is clear there. With the iPhone I have photos and music on it that I would not want a corporation to have, so you have conflict and if you do not let me have it there is a solution, but not everybody likes a BlackBerry,” he said.

Vladimir Jirasek, IT services domain lead at the Common Assurance Maturity Model, said that it came down to the awareness of the user and the importance of protecting data. He said that a corporate policy should say what data can be accessed by smartphones and if it is done correctly, then technology can be introduced to some means.

He said: “It shows that awareness is important but you cannot tell if data is malicious, so the question to ask is if the responsibility is on the part of the manufacturer to make sure that the user is informed on its capabilities to say what it is sending out. We agree that it is a computer and organisations should know what is connected and what is stored, technologically that is very difficult.”

Looking to the future, Stanley said that he expected that malware for smartphones will 'grow explosively as it gets attacked'. He referred to a BBC experiment he participated in where 200 lines of code were required to create a mobile app that collected personal details and numbers.

Colley said: “I remember when we were waiting for the number of viruses for computers to break the 1,000 barrier and I suspect we are in the early stages of malware developments and there is skill required.

“There will be a change in time and people will get toolkits and it will be easier to write malware. The other trend is the capacity of the smartphone will not get smaller, it is now 64GB and that will increase and be driven by audio visual media and entertainment.”

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