Sensitive Data More Likely To Appear On Tablets


Tablet users transferring more sensitive data than smartphone owners may give RIM an advantage

Tablets are fast gaining interest in enterprise segments, where security has long been a major concern, but IT managers are slowly softening to the idea of supporting employee-owned devices. However, tablet users, it turns out, are transferring sensitive information at a greater rate than even smartphone owners, according to a March 10 report from Harris Interactive.

The news could be a boon for Research In Motion, at least in the short term. The BlackBerry maker is expected to release its PlayBook tablet by the summer, and is aiming it at the enterprise. However, lurking in the background is Apple, which dominates the tablet space with its iPad and is growing its reputation for secure products.

Tablets Increase Security Issues

While 30 percent of the 2,300-plus adults polled in a late-January survey admitted to using their smartphones to transfer sensitive data, 48 percent of tablet owners said the same. Additionally, 20 percent of tablet owners said they transfer sensitive data for business use, while 42 percent said the data was personal. Among smartphone owners, 26 percent said they transferred personal data, while 14 percent said the data was for professional use.

The survey additionally found results to skew according to age and gender.

“Men are more likely than women to say they are at least confident in the security of the data that is being transferred over their smartphone or tablet – 47 percent versus 34 percent, respectively,” the firm said a statement.

And the younger the adults, the more likely they were to transfer sensitive data. Those 18 to 34 were more likely to than those aged 35 to 44, who were in turn more likely than those aged 45 to 54, and so on.

The Apple iPad controls the bulk of the tablet market, and has been welcomed into enterprises far more swiftly than the iPhone, according to executives at both Apple and AT&T. However, where security is a concern, the advantage may go to RIM. Technology Business Research is also studying enterprise use of tablets, and some of the initial findings show that these users continue to believe that RIM devices are the most secure.

“IT departments like the ability to manage the devices and data on the devices remotely, including the ability to control access and to securely wipe the devices if they’re lost or stolen,” TBR analyst Ken Hyers told eWEEK. “RIM has succeeded in establishing a high threshold in what is expected from an enterprise-class device in terms of security.”

However, given the increasingly crowded market RIM operates in, the company is facing new competition.

“From a smartphone vendor standpoint, Apple is establishing its own reputation as a secure device, though not up to the level of RIM,” said Hyers. “Apple (and Android mobile devices) also have a distinct edge in usability and appeal; they’re simply easier to use and more fun to use.” Where this becomes a problem for RIM is when businesses let their employees choose the mobile devices they use, as they tend to go for the “sexier” ones, he explained.

“RIM’s reputation for security will give it a near-term advantage and help it sell more PlayBooks directly to the enterprise,” Hyers added. “But over time that advantage will steadily erode.”

According to the Harris poll, 18 percent of those surveyed said they were extremely confident about the security of the data they transferred over their device, while 15 percent said they “were not at all confident” that the data was secure.

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