To many security experts, its an epidemic waiting to happen.
While most I-managers today have their hands full securing wired networks, their companies have been spending billions of dollars on wireless. By the end of this year, businesses will have spent $37 billion on wireless communications services, and 47 percent of the U.S. work force will use some sort of wireless device, including cell phones, pagers and mobile computing devices, according to Cahners In-Stat Group.
Thats good news for employee productivity, but bad news for companies ill-prepared to head off security breaches and debilitating viruses.
"The only reason the [wireless] viruses of today have not been more damaging is theres been a lack of functionality and a lack of mature infrastructure globally," said Bob Hansmann, enterprise product manager of antivirus software vendor Trend Micro.
But thats about to change, he says. Hansmann uses a popular equation to help predict when and where problems will pop up: Popularity plus functionality equals vulnerability. Fill that equation in with analyst predictions for dramatic increases in wireless handheld use and the proliferation of new mobile capabilities - Cahners expects to see 1.5 billion handsets, PDAs and Internet appliances equipped with wireless capabilities by the end of 2004 - and you get a full scale epidemic in the works.
Simply put: "Its coming," said Mike Vergara, product marketing director of RSA Security, a wired and wireless authentication provider.
The wireless world, with its often-incompatible alphabet soup of standards, may be new territory for many I-managers. Many enterprises have felt that protecting their wireless processes against viruses is one piece of the complicated puzzle they can afford to omit. Theyll soon need to think again, experts say, or face threats that could wreak havoc.
The good news is security vendors - even giants like IBM - are busy developing products to fight the viruses and security breaches of the future. Among them are those that head off problems on a network level, within applications and on devices.