Is IT to blame for security woes?

Surveys single out IT for blame… … in a growing security crisis. If you oversee mobile, remote or wireless-based workers, odds are pretty good that a fair portion of them are engaging in risky systems behavior, according to one recent poll. Another scary survey found that IT leaders don’t much care about the end-user shenanigans — or at least aren’t doing much about them. John N. Stewart, chief security officer at Cisco Systems Inc., hopes the results of a survey conducted last summer for the networking vendor will light a fire under IT and prompt improvements in remote security. But the results themselves may undermine those hopes. The poll involved 1,000 remote users and 1,000 IT professionals. Although 68 percent of the users claimed to be “more cognizant of security concerns” when working outside the office, 24 percent still open e-mail from unknown sources, 5 percent continue to open attachments in such messages, 45 percent download business files to their home PCs, and nearly one-fifth let others use their work machines. Worse, Stewart says, many of the users had an “unflattering” view of IT: 57 percent said their direct managers — not people in IT — should govern their remote computing habits. Actually, that might be a good thing, given the results of a study completed last quarter by the BPM Forum. You see, the poll of 680 IT execs at the director level or higher reveals that at a stunning 40 percent of their companies, IT doesn’t have “anything in place to handle security and compliance for mobile devices,” says Adriano Gonzalez, vice president of strategy and programming at the business process management trade association. And 70 percent of those respondents don’t plan to change their ways, he notes. Gonzalez says he was “astounded” by those figures and concludes that “we don’t have the adequate tools, processes and frameworks for controls around mobility.” Stewart, however, remains optimistic. For example, he says IT can exploit the preference of end users for taking direction on security from their bosses by helping managers craft programs that reward good security practices. Gonzalez is less sanguine. He sees finger-pointing everywhere, with most of the digits aimed at IT. And he says that making security successful for remote workers will “require a cultural transformation.”

It will be a snap to build mobile apps…… that are easy to use and secure. Next year, that is. By mid-2007, SnapIn Software Inc. plans to deliver a mobile development and deployment environment that it claims will enable IT departments to create user-friendly and secure programs for smart phones, PDAs and other handhelds. Tom Trinner, vice president of product management and marketing at SnapIn, says that thus far, the company’s software has been used in eight field trials by wireless carriers around the globe. Although SnapIn will sell the software primarily to telecommunications companies, there will be an enterprise version for IT users, he says. In addition to using the technology to guide end users through business apps, IT can have SnapIn automatically check handhelds to ensure that they’re properly configured before loading a business program or accessing a Web site. Trinner quips that SnapIn also can apply the “ping of death” to a lost or stolen device to erase all data and render the device useless.

Excel hits the wall with …… multidimensional calculations. Chris Houle, CEO of Subx Inc., which does business under the name Quantrix, claims that Excel “hits a snag” beyond two dimensions of data. Houle brags that his company’s data modeling software can handle 16 dimensions within what Quantrix calls a matrix. A matrix, which resembles a spreadsheet, is where end users load data, create formulas and analyze the results. But unlike Excel, Quantrix doesn’t apply formulas to individual cells. They’re written in a separate, easy-to-review form and can be applied to any area in a matrix. Also, Quantrix sports an “assumptions table” that lets users understand the logic (or fantasy) behind the formulas and the data. The software starts at US$329 per seat, and Houle says Quantrix will add dashboard views early next year so users can get live updates from its analytic tools.

Hold on: Excel is the window into …… performance modeling. Max Kay, CEO of KCI Computing Inc. in Torrance, Calif., thinks so highly of Excel that he uses it as the user interface for Control, his company’s corporate performance management software. Control takes input from your company’s data sources and lets model-minded business analysts use a bevy of equations, algorithms and scripts that come with the software, or else write their own. In 2007, KCI will focus on adding features for international financial services firms, Kay says. Pricing starts at $33,000.

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