Camera phones can pose security risk to enterprises

JOHANNESBURG (03/03/2004) - Businesses are concerned that camera phones can compromise their security and employees' privacy, and many businesses are trying to ban camera phones from their facilities.

However, an outright ban of camera phones is short-sighted and hard to enforce, according to Gartner Inc. By 2006, more than 80 percent of mobile phones shipped in the USA and Western Europe will have cameras. As camera phones account for a larger portion of the overall mobile phone market, companies will need to implement security programs that can be realistically managed.

"Most organizations simply do not have the staff or money to mount effective inspections," says Ken Dulaney, research vice-president at Gartner. "Instead, businesses should designate secure zones where restrictions on these devices are tight and can be enforced. For other workplace areas, staff should be given guidelines about what is acceptable."

"Usage guidelines will be far more effective than outright bans, because it is not just the phones' cameras that could pose a security risk," says Carolina Milanesi, analyst for Gartner. "For example, many phones can also record voices. Therefore, it is hard to decide where to draw a firm line about what can and cannot be used at work."

Gartner analysts say there are a flood of high-tech consumer devices, not just camera phones, entering the workplace that could pose a security risk.

"There are Universal Serial Bus 'key ring' drives, some of which will soon feature built-in cameras that can quickly connect to almost any recent PC and take large amounts of information off the premises. There is also a new wave of DVD burners to contend with," Dulaney says. "Any company policy directed at camera phones should be widened to address the transfer of information from enterprise environments to consumer devices in general."

Above all, businesses must foster an internal culture that discourages the abuse of any technologies.

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