More than half of REALTORS® use mobile devices that create a significant information security risk. Real estate professionals use mobile devices to store sensitive data, including email, contacts, documents, spreadsheets, passwords, bank account information, and MLS data. More than a quarter of mobile devices are lost, according to a 2003 survey conducted by Pointsec Mobile Technologies, and that’s just one part of the problem. mobile devices and memory cards are stolen or infected by viruses; wireless transmissions are intercepted, and many professionals don’t enable passwords on their devices, allowing anyone who finds or steals their mobile device to see their data. Besides keeping as little information as possible on your mobile device, there are many steps you can take to secure it:
The most basic step is to reduce the risk of losing the mobile device. Keep it locked up in a briefcase, desk drawer, or lockable case when not in use – do not leave the mobile device unattended in plain sight.
Require a hard-to-guess password to access the device and its applications – if you don’t already require a password on startup, there’s nothing to stop someone from accessing your information. Whatever you do, don’t configure your PDA applications to memorize your application and web site passwords.
Most people are not aware that viruses can affect their mobile device. There are many anti-virus tools for PDAs, and you can download free antivirus software for some mobile device models from Trend Micro (http://www.trendmicro.com/download/product.asp?productid=2).
Using a wireless connection poses a substantial risk that your information can be intercepted. If you must use an unencrypted wireless connection, the web sites and email providers you use should provide an TLS (which replaces SSL) encryption option to reduce your risk. If your office or service provider offers a Virtual Private Network (VPN), that will provide an even greater degree of protection.
Many security products for mobile devices exist to encrypt the information on the device – they put a password on your data, which you must enter to access the information. Examples include:
To encrypt your data on a Blackberry with a password already set, just click Options > Security and set Content Protection to “Enabled”.
There’s no such thing as perfect security. If you run a program from an untrusted source on your mobile device, none of the steps mentioned above will be a cure-all. But, if you’ve taken the basic steps to secure your mobile device and have your email address on the back, you don’t have to worry as much about the information on a lost mobile device– and you may even get lucky and have it returned to you.
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