PDAs Causing Headaches for Business Users

Security experts are warning that personal digital assistants (PDAs), designed originally for personal use, are increasingly used for important business applications, and as a result companies need to take security seriously.

Hackers are known to be targeting wireless and networked handheld devides because of the lack of built-in security.

ZDNet recently reported on the risks of handheld devices according to senior experts from security engineering company @Stake. The risks include:

  • The spread of viruses planted on PDAs when they are synchronized with office networks
  • Unauthorized disclosure of passwords held on PDAs - passwords are particularly easy to extract from such devices
  • Physical loss of PDA devices, together with the company data they hold

@Stake claims that the Palm OS, in its current state, should not be trusted to store "any critical or confidential information." However, Palm itself strongly denies this, claiming that rumors of Palm viruses have been unfounded and that Palm handhelds are more secure than computers with more complex operating systems.

Meanwhile, trouble is brewing for Palm as the company is being sued as a result of complaints that the handheld devices are destroying personal computers.

Consumers are claiming that Palm products have fried their PCs. It's alleged that HotSync, the feature used to synchronize data between the Palm and the PC, is responsible for damaging the PC's motherboard. Apparently the feature can also disable the serial port of certain computers.

The lawsuit was filed last week by Pinnacle Law Group on the grounds that Palm and 3Com failed to warn users about the defect present in some models of Palm V and Palm Vx.

While Pinnacle first heard of the problems occurring with PCs from computer manufacturor Dell, they have since received complaints about similar incidents with systems from Gateway, Compaq, Toshiba, and Apple.

Spokeswoman for Palm, Marlene Somsak, said, "Palm is not award of any HotSync operation that will cause damage to computer motherboards."

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