Apple iPads for MPs: more secure than you think, but secure enough?

Opinion by Keith Ricketts

The latest example of the consumerisation of IT is iPads for MPs, and it has been widely reported in many of the national newspapers.

The latest example of the consumerisation of IT is iPads for MPs, and it has been widely reported in many of the national newspapers.

While the angle has been along the lines of an expensive toy for MPs at taxpayers' expense, many commentators are in favour of MPs adopting more technology. The scheme to issue every MP with an iPad should save money, as information can be shared electronically rather than using paper. Moving into the digital age, improving productivity and saving money have to be applauded.

However, in an age where cyber security is at the top of every government agenda, it must surely be considered whether the iPad is really the best choice. There is no doubt that it is a highly desirable consumer device that is great to use, but is it the best business tool for the job?

If all MPs wish to do is access (non-classified) emails, surf the web, share data and give presentations, then the iPad is probably as good as any Windows or Android tablet, albeit more expensive. However, as anyone who has used a tablet will know, the more you use these devices, the more you want to use them, and therein lies part of the problem.

The iPad doesn't support many of the applications that are needed in everyday business life, so their use is limited. Nor do they have the level of security required for MPs to access and store sensitive or classified data. This means that there will be certain emails that they can't access on their iPads, and a lot of sensitive data (either citizen data or data that could affect national security were it to fall into the wrong hands) that they can't access either.

At some point, they will have to stop using the iPad in favour of a device that meets government security standards. This is where the 'best value' argument comes in.

Windows and Android tablets do provide business applications and, being more open platforms, can be encrypted and protected to meet stringent government requirements, meaning that they could empower MPs to do away with at least one of their standard-issue laptops.

If they are lost on a train or left in the back of a taxi, as we read about all too often, government-grade security and encryption means that the data held can't be accessed even using specialist tools.

National security and citizen data is protected, and MPs really can move into the digital age with a device that supports true business requirements, all at a lower cost. What's not to like? If the recommendation to use iPads rather than other, more suitable tablet devices is ratified later this month, it could be a huge missed opportunity to exploit this new device form factor to its full potential.

Keith Ricketts is vice-president of marketing at Becrypt


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