Software protects data on corporate handhelds

Scrambling corporate data on handheld devices to protect it should get easier with new software from Extended Systems Inc.

OneBridge Mobile Secure lets network executives encrypt all or part of their data on an array of handheld devices. This data is otherwise left exposed if a PDA or smartphone is lost or stolen.

Mobile Secure is an option for the company’s OneBridge Mobile Solutions Suite, a group of middleware programs, APIs, database access, and client programs for deploying applications on mobile devices.

The initial release of Mobile Secure is for devices running PalmOS 3.5 or higher. This fall, the company will release the application for Microsoft PocketPC, Windows Smartphone 2003, and Symbian operating systems. The current OneBridge Win32 client for desktop and notebook PCs is being reworked slightly to support Mobile Secure. It, too, will be released this fall.

Mobile Secure installs on a server and makes use of various elements in the OneBridge suite. An editor lets you create device encryption policies for your users, such as requiring a certain number of characters in a password and identifying what folders, subfolders, files and databases are to be encrypted.

The server program handles the software provisioning to the client devices as they log on and updates the devices with any changes to encryption policies.

Mobile Secure encrypts data using Advanced Encryption System, but it can also use Triple DES, Blowfish, and, for older Palm devices, Lite.

Rival products include PDA Defense by JP Mobile Inc., and Pointsec by Pointsec Mobile Technologies Inc.

Users enter a PIN number, or a user ID and password, and the client code decrypts the data. The work takes place in the background, so other applications can still run. Mobile Secure decrypts the data according to preset priorities, and releases the data for use as soon as it’s unscrambled.

If a user starts to work with a data set that’s not yet encrypted, Mobile Secure is smart enough to pause, grab that data, and decrypt it at once.

Where the device is a smartphone, OneBridge leaves the telephony applications themselves untouched. But users will enter their PIN or password to decrypt personal or corporate data that might go into an e-mail message sent via the phone.

When the handheld goes into suspended animation after a delay, the screen locks, and after a time set by an administrator, all the data is automatically re-encrypted. If the device is stolen, an administrator can use OneBridge to delete all data if the device tries to log into the server again.

OneBridge Secure Mobile is available now. The price is US$75 per user.

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