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Are American firms ready for wireless?

Businesses have cited security concerns as the primary reason not to deploy wireless and remote computers, a new global survey has found.

More than 60 percent of companies are leery to implement such systems because of security reasons, according to an Economist Intelligence Unit survey, which was sponsored by Symantec. Meanwhile, about 47 percent of respondents cited cost and complexity as the major barriers to deployment.

The survey – polling 248 company executives and senior IT staffers – highlighted a lack of preparedness among companies to ensure safety with laptops, smart phones and personal digital assistants. In fact, only nine percent of companies have incorporated "comprehensive security architecture" to control mobile device access, the survey said.

Eighty-eight percent of companies deal with mobile security either on an ad-hoc basis, by attempting to integrate the devices into existing networks, or fail to address the issue at all, according to the survey.

The latest Symantec Internet Security Threat Report, covering the last half of 2005, said malicious code targeting mobile devices is on the rise.

"It's prudent for enterprises to gain experience in mobile deployments and security before a serious attack makes it mandatory and time-critical," said Paul Miller, director of mobile and wireless solutions at Symantec. "In today's enterprise, there are multiple end points to account for – and proper protection cannot be tackled as one-size-fits-all."

U.S. businesses appear to be trailing other global companies in securely deployed wireless and remote systems, the survey said. Fifty-five percent of Western European enterprises have implemented software to protect such devices, compared to 44 percent of Asia-Pacific businesses and just 36 percent of North American businesses.

Businesses must look at mobile security as an investment, experts said.

"Security is the one particular issue that continues to impede the widespread adoption of mobile computing in the workplace, and if it continues to be overlooked, there is a danger that some businesses will miss the advantages mobility can bring to their workforce," said Gareth Lofthouse, director of Economist Intelligence Unit custom research.

Miller recommends companies instill a "coherent strategy" by first adding protection for five to 10 percent of their mobile workforce.

"This measured approach will help tremendously in preparing for major deployment," he said.

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