More concerns raised about suitability of the Apple iPad, as Norton say that it will not be able to run its phishing protection engine

News by Dan Raywood

The announcement of the launch of the Apple iPad has led to concerns being raised not only about the security implications, but also the extra strain put on mobile operators.

The announcement of the launch of the Apple iPad has led to concerns being raised not only about the security implications, but also the extra strain put on mobile operators.

Questions and criticism was immediately made following the launch, specifically about its inability to host Flash sites. Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure, said: “We have received some questions regarding Apple's iPad, and whether or not the lack of Adobe Flash support is for security reasons. Well, no, we don't think so.

“True, Adobe Flash has been exploitable in the past, and it will undoubtedly be so again, but we think it's more a matter of practicality and not security. Flash is processor, battery, and bandwidth intensive. Mobile networks and devices are not yet suitable.”

Commenting, Adrian Ludwig, Adobe's group manager for Flash marketing, said that it was ‘really exciting to see some of the technologies that Adobe has contributed to, like PDF and ePub support, taking centre stage in the launch'.

However he commented that there was ‘something important missing from Apple's approach to connecting consumers to content'. Unlike many other ebook readers using the ePub file format, consumers will not be able to access ePub content with Apple's DRM technology on devices made by other manufacturers.

He said: “Without Flash support, iPad users will not be able to access the full range of web content, including over 70 per cent of games and 75 per cent of video on the web.

“If I want to use the iPad to connect to Disney, Miniclip, Farmville, ESPN or JibJab - not to mention the millions of other sites on the web - I'll be out of luck.”

Reflecting on comments made by Alan Goode about the operating system, Mike Romo, senior product manager at Symantec who works on Norton products for the Mac, said that from a security point of view, developers are still beholden to Apple.

He said: “The iPad now runs mobile versions of their popular iWork suite, which opens the door for downloading and sharing important business files. This does push security more into the fore than years past, as users will be open to non-Apple approved bits coming into their device (other than media files).

“Symantec will endeavour to provide the relevant products, but right now we are hampered by the limitations, such as they are, of the current mobile OS in iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, primarily because we cannot run processes in the background. For example, if you are checking your email, we cannot scan an attachment for viruses because our scanning engine cannot run while the mail program is running.

“Similarly, we cannot run our phishing protection engine (which scans pages while they load for threats as opposed to just checking to see if the site is listed as a phishing site) because the Safari browser is running. Of course, that is just one aspect (an important aspect to be sure) of what we do; there are other more assistive solutions that we are investigating, but from a classical security perspective (Symantec protecting you from malicious threats entering your system), we need a bit more flexibility in the OS. Happily, the rumour mill is already back in action, with hopes that iPhone OS 4.0 will actually allow background apps, but we'll have to wait for that to happen later this year, if at all.”

Francisco Martin Abreu, president and CEO of Optenet, claimed that as mobile operators compete to add the latest devices to satisfy customers' desire to stay connected anytime and anywhere, those that cannot offer sophisticated and built-in security for its customers will be the ones who find it hard to survive.

He said: “A smart solution for mobile operators will be to offer their customers a Security-as-a-Service solution for protecting their email and web traffic. Since the devices people will be using to access the internet will be very heterogeneous with different operating systems and capabilities, a solution in the cloud adds flexibility and makes more sense than a solution based on endpoint software.”

Likewise Jim Chou, product marketing manager at Airwide Solutions, commented that the higher levels of data usage caused by increasing mobile internet access and app downloads is putting greater pressure on the operators' networks.

He said that the launch of the iPad has the potential to make things more difficult for operators, unless they have the right infrastructure in place to cope with the increasing larger volumes of content, which are set to be downloaded by consumers more frequently.

He said: “Devices like smartphones and the new iPad test operators' current network data-capabilities to the extreme. AT&T in America and O2 in the UK are two examples as it was after they launched exclusivity deals of the iPhone that they suffered criticism of their 3G networks.

“In countries with a developed mobile eco-system, data has become the driving factor for consumers. In order to maintain a leading position, operators must ensure that their network capacity is sufficient to cope well with increases in data traffic.”


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