Unilever Builds Mobile Security from Scratch

By Beth Mcfadden  |  Posted 2006-05-15 Print this article Print

Giving handhelds to 1,000 executives around the globe wasn't easy—but it let Unilever establish its wireless policy from the ground up.

In March 2004, senior management at Unilever demanded handheld mobile devices for the company's top 1,000 executives to increase their productivity. For Tony Farah, director of global solutions, this project posed major headaches; Unilever, a $54 billion manufacturer and supplier of consumer goods, operates in 57 countries and has executive teams spread across Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Another complicating factor: Handheld devices pose significant threats to business security because of their proliferation in the workplace. Research firm Forrester says that more than half of North American and European firms have adoptsed some type of mobile application. As a result, Forrester predicts that 2006 will bring a number of high-profile security incidents involving mobile devices.

Often, smart phones and PDAs, particularly those used by CEOs and senior executives, contain highly sensitive corporate data like sales figures, as well as customers' confidential information including Social Security numbers, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Because handhelds are so portable, they're easy to lose or steal. They can also operate in a number of environments with multiple modes of network and Internet connectivity, such as Wi-Fi or digital cellular wireless services. This, in turn, can translate into a greater number of illicit access points for hackers or intruders, and result in data thefts and financial losses for the firm.

According to the most recent Computer Security Institute/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey, financial losses from certain security breaches are growing quickly. The average loss from theft of proprietary information increased 110%, to $355,552 in 2005 from $168,529 in 2004, while the average loss from unauthorized access to data increased 488%, to $303,234 in 2005 from $51,545 in 2004.


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