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iPhone security threats are 'overblown'

Analysts argue over Apple iPhone dangers

Analysts are arguing over the suitability of Apple's iPhone to the business sector, with some saying IT buyers should be wary of security issues, and other claiming the threat has been overblown.

"I think it has been exaggerated," said Andrew Jaquith, security analyst with the Yankee Group.

"You have to start with the observation that many of the people that complain the loudest and say it's a security threat tend to be security companies themselves."

Vulnerability management vendor nCircle's Andrew Storms was one of the first when he pronounced the iPhone "our new security nightmare". This before the iPhone was released.

Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney told IT executives to keep Apple's iPhone away from their networks, eight days before the iPhone hit store shelves.

Jaquith said that security criticisms of the iPhone fall into two categories – the iPhone is not enterprise ready and that it is insecure. Both of these claims, he said, are exaggerated.

While IT managers may not want to officially support the iPhone on their networks, it will make its way into the enterprise and corporations through the employees – whether they like it or not.

"There are reasons not to support the iPhone - you don't want to support IMAP or the flavour of VPN that the iPhone uses – those are policy decisions," said Jaquith. "Security is not the reason."

One argument researchers have against the iPhone – which is coming to Europe in the year's final quarter – is that it has no data security features. Jaquith counters that the iPhone does support SSL and TSL and there is little sensitive data on the iPhone that needs to be encrypted.

The Yankee Group also contends that opening any needed ports to allow email connections not going through VPN can be done on non-standard ports, minimising any risk.

Gartner's Dulaney pointed out that the iPhone doesn't have remote wipe (the ability to wipe the phone's data if lost) and it doesn't have a firewall. Again Jaquith said it just doesn't matter because of the type of data the iPhone has on it and none of the iPhone's processes require open TCP/IP ports.

But while Jaquith may feel analysts have exaggerated security concerns with the iPhone, he would still like to see Apple deliver software patches over the air and expand keychain and identity support on the iPhone.

As for enterprises, Jaquith has a few recommendations for them as well, including turning on IMAP-S, using L2TP over IPSec and using non-standard ports.

"Security worries about the iPhone are overblown," said Jaquith. "To boost employee productivity, enterprises would be better served thinking about how to accommodate the iPhone. It's the best phone and iPod I've ever used."

See also:

Apple iPhone review

Why IT managers hate the iPhone

www.macworld.com

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