Apple Gets Serious About iPad Security, Is It Enough?

Can you send encrypted email from your iPad? Not yet. As iPads pour into the enterprise, CIOs hope Apple can help solve this and other security problems.

Wed, August 03, 2011

CIO — Soon, SAP hopes to sew up a gaping security hole for its 7,000 iPad-toting employees. The Germany-based tech giant is beta testing a product that will allow it to send PGP-encrypted confidential email to employees. In turn, employees will be able to decrypt them using a Symantec (SYMC) viewer iPad app.

Just one problem: Employees won't be able to send encrypted email from their iPads, at least not yet. Blame Apple (AAPL) for an iPad email encryption capability that literally goes only half way—that is, to iPads but not from them.

"Symantec told us the problem is with Apple; they can't get the right interfaces into iOS," explains Wolfgang Krips, senior vice president of global IT infrastructure services at SAP. "It's not a deal killer but very serious, very frustrating."

So goes the love-hate relationship CIOs have with Apple. Now the stakes are higher with iPads invading the enterprise at a meteoric rate. To be fair, Apple has responded recently to security concerns about its iOS. But does the company's newfound interest in enterprise security go far enough?

Not so long ago, Apple would take its sweet time addressing enterprise security concerns to the chagrin of CIOs. Apple's thinking: Malicious attackers target Microsoft (MSFT) Windows machines that contain valuable—and profitable—data, not so much Apple consumer devices. So let Microsoft put out Patch Tuesdays (the second Tuesday of the month when Microsoft releases security patches).

But the tables have turned with iPads pouring into the enterprise. After only 18 months on the market, iPads are now being deployed or tested at 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies, Apple said during its most recent quarterly earnings call. Industries that traffic in highly confidential information, such as hospitals and law firms, have emerged as early adopters.

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Making matters worse, iPads are becoming a kind of proxy for laptops, sending and receiving some of the most sensitive data on the network. "The security problem for iPads becomes even more burning," Krips says. "You're coming to the same situation you have with Windows on the laptops or desktops. It's becoming increasingly attractive to hack those devices."

And malware attackers are plying their nefarious trade with more frequency. The rate of malware attacks more than doubled in the second quarter this year to 287,298 unique instances in June, according to Cisco's quarterly threat report released this week. A company faces an average 335 encounters every month.

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