Oracle users worry about mobile security

Oracle and Nokia announced the general availability and certification for joint solutions at the recent Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco

According to the vendors, the solution makes it possible for end users to access a wide range of corporate information held in Oracle Collaboration Suite through compatible Nokia mobile devices.

Ottawa Oracle User Group vendor co-ordinator Glenn Cripps, an Oracle database administrator for Health Canada (which doesn’t allow its employees to use handheld devices for business purposes), said security will be a big issue.

“Someone could squeeze through the wireless connection – there’s such a potential for data to be sniffed out and for someone to force their way in.”

The question on most Oracle users’ minds seems to be when it comes to the crucial and sometimes sensitive information in Oracle applications – with everything from customer information to shipping records – how safe is it for sales professionals, field service personnel and distribution staff to take or access that information out of the office?

Info-Tech Research Group senior research analyst Carmi Levy said the opportunity for attack is ever-increasing. “Mobility is such an issue now. Before, it was tangible – servers and PCs existed behind security and locked doors: they were separate from the big bad world,” he said.

“As we become more mobile, with BlackBerrys, smart phones, and PDAs, that kind of security is no longer there. What if you lose your BlackBerry in the back seat of a cab and it gets into the wrong hands?”

Levy said access-based protections such as dual-function authentication are imperative, and end-to-end encryption is necessary.

These technical failsafes should form the foundation for rigorous employee training from the IT department, said Levy, who said Nokia and Oracle’s technology is up to par.

“The employees need to become experts in mobile security,” he says.

Craig Read, m-trilogix director and president of both the Toronto Wireless User Group and Toronto Oracle Users Group, agreed.

“You can’t just say, ‘Go buy Nokias and we’ll connect you,’” he said.

Read stressed the importance of making sure a company needs mobile devices in the first place.

“You need (an employee that can be) responsible for the project and make a business case for this, and who can ask, ‘What do you need to do your job properly?’” he said.

IDC’s Sean Ryan, a mobile enterprise devices research analyst, said companies need to consider (the devices’) interface, functionality and security.

Read said sussing out screen size, processing power, and software and training requirements is key.

Once all this has been nailed down, Read said, accessing Oracle on a handheld could “get rid of the paper and automate all the paper processes.”

Mark Perry, a program co-ordinator at Southern Alberta’s Institute of Technology and president of the Calgary Oracle Users Group, suggested installing safeguards where five wrong password tries result in the lockdown of the device and the erasing of all its data.

That could pave the way for greater use of the technology, he said.

“There’s definitely a huge benefit. If you’re a sales guy and you need to get real-time info to the client, you eliminate the ‘I’ll-get-back-to-you.’”

Both Read and Ryan estimated the percentage of people who use mobile devices for business is extremely low.

But both feel that handhelds are picking up momentum in the marketplace and that companies who have mobile applications have the advantage.

“You have to be mobile, regardless. While it may pose great [security] risks, it’s a greater risk to fall behind,” Levy said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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