Desktop Search Requires Security Lockdown

Opinion: Desktop search is a robust tool, but it needs to be reined in.

Self-deploying technologies—those products or programs that users bring into the corporate network from the outside—are the bane of the IT managers existence.

Wi-Fi hot spots are an example of self-deploying technology. In an earlier era, PCs and laptops were hauled into the office by well-meaning employees.

Wi-Fi is a great idea, but unless controlled, those wireless routers open up lots of invisible security holes.

The use of laptops and spreadsheets changed corporate computing, but losing the laptop with the employee salary spreadsheet or secret-project document was a corporate disaster.

The latest self-deploying technology is desktop search. You can download the latest search products from Google or Microsoft and get strong search capabilities.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about Microsofts desktop search offerings.

In the corporation, if you point your search engine at public file folders, you may be surprised at what those folders contain.

That file server set up years ago for the finance department with wide-open reader privileges becomes an information sieve that, in these days of SarbOx and regulatory compliance, can not only get you in corporate trouble but legal trouble as well.

Recently, I spoke with Josh Jacobs, president of X1 Technologies, in Pasadena, Calif., about enterprise search.

What he had to say about it was in line with what eWEEK Labs analysts have to say about system lockdown in this issue, finding that it isnt always easy, but it is powerful protection.

Im a fan of X1 Desktop Search, but Im also a realist in noting that even the best technology does not always win.

Googles momentum in consumer search could carry it to overwhelming market share in the corporate world.

Dont be too fast in counting out all those corporate search engines such as X1, Verity (recently acquired by Autonomy) and LiveLink Search, said Jacobs.

Where search is often the end result for the consumer, it should be just the start of the process for the business user.

The best search engine will be one that behaves according to the rules established by corporate management and implemented by the IT department.

Once that behavior is established, you can start to integrate search into corporate applications, such as automatically dumping search results into order processing systems, searching Outlook personal folder (.pst) files and compiling records for regulatory compliance.

Jacobs advice is to lock down everything except individual user desktop search when rolling out a corporate search tool and move forward from there.

Users will like desktop searchs productivity improvements, and corporate execs will be relieved that all those forgotten folders are not suddenly searchable.

In our Labs review on system lockdown, Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia found that turning the screws down from Administrator to Power User level in Windows 2000 or XP had little effect on blocking spyware, worms and Trojans.

However, moving down to the User level was a good way to block unwanted software.

Although Microsoft is making strides in developing and distributing administrator tools to make user-level setting easier, the company still has a ways to go in offering the granularity needed.

That type of granularity is also much needed for setting user search access and must be melded with overall system user privileges.

The era when users could spend their days in administrator or power-user mode downloading programs at will should have ended in your company many years ago.

Search is a powerful tool—as witnessed by the consumer sector, where the combination of user search and sponsored, related advertising has given rise to Google crossing the $400-per-share threshold.

Search is also a powerful corporate tool, but one that, if self-deployed and unmanaged, can lead to job loss (yours) and federal regulators knocking at your door.

eWEEK magazine editor in chief Eric Lundquist can be reached at

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