Is CRM Data Safe on an iPad?

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It’s easy to understand why love for the iPad is starting to spill over into the workplace. With Apple’s tablet, it’s easy to access your e-mail, video, pictures, and personal content from anywhere. Why, then, shouldn’t the device do the same thing with CRM data at the office? This has led many executives to call for iPad support, only to be answered  by nervous hand wringing from IT departments.  As you might expect from new technology – and especially tech that will carry the personal information of hundreds of customers – the issue is security.

Apple is expectantly stern in saying the iPad is a secure platform. They flaunt a multi-tiered system that denies access and even prevents damage in the case of intrusion. The iPad supports password policy enforcement, which means that IT departments can enforce password complexity and rotation. These policies may be annoying, but they’re preferable to hundreds of employees locking their iPad with the password “password.” Additionally, the iPad supports configuration profiles, which lock access information to Wi-Fi networks, e-mail servers, VPN networks, and authorization credentials away in encrypted files. The iPad also boasts local data encryption, remote and local data wipes, and an array of wireless encryptions like SSL v3, TLS, WPA, WPA2, and more.

Even if you’re not intimately familiar with the technical details of those systems, they all sound pretty impressive, right? Unfortunately, the axiom about chains also applies to digital security – it’s only as secure as its weakest link. Recently, researchers at the German Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology have exposed a critical security flaw in iOS that can expose a user’s passwords within minutes, even if the device is locked. With access passwords, the device has no way to tell a hacker apart from a legitimate user. The short hack time compounds the problem. There’s no time for an employee to even notice they’ve misplaced the device, much less warn IT who could shut off its access to compromising data.

On top of that, even though iOS does offer the aforementioned suite of security features, most developers aren’t even aware they exist. The basic truth is that the iPad wasn’t developed with enterprise-level hardware or software in mind. As such, data security hasn’t been one of the pillars of its development. The call to move the tablet to the workplace came well after its release. To Apple’s credit, they’ve been responding to this need as best they can. iOS 4 added several additional security features, but as previously stated, these have yet to be fully utilized.

The call of convenience may tempt you to push workplace iPad adoption faster than is prudent. Apple is doing its best to make the iPad as attractive to IT departments as home consumers, but it’s in the middle of a hasty transition. One massive data leak can cause untold nightmares for a company, so prudent workers will temper dreams of managing CRM data on the iPad with that thought.

Sources: iPad Security Overview, iPhones and iPads are vulnerable to six-minute hack, experts warn

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