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Gartner says camera-phones are a security risk

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 shortsighted and hard to enforce, according to Gartner, Inc.

By 2006, more than 80 percent of mobile phones shipped in the United States 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 realistically be managed.

“Most organizations simply don’t have the staff or money to mount effective inspections,” said 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’s not just the phones’ cameras that could pose a security risk,” said Carolina Milanesi, analyst for Gartner. “For example, many phones can also record voices. Therefore, it’s hard to decide where to draw a firm line about what can and can’t be used at work.”

Gartner analysts said 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’s also a new wave of DVD burners to contend with,” Dulaney said. “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.

About Fabrizio Pilato

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