Camera phones may threaten enterprise confidentaility

Camera phones have been used by employees in the manufacturing sector to steal company information forcing IT managers to introduce strict usage policies.

Confirming such incidents have occurred in recent months, Meta Group Australia analyst John Brand said IT managers need to develop workplace policies that keep pace with the convergence of PDA's, phones and cameras.

In some industries such as research and development or the military Brand said there is a total ban on the use of camera phones.

"There has been an instance in a manufacturing company where an employee was able to capture specific processes using this technology," he said.

"While a blanket ban may not be necessary it may be suitable for specific locations within an organisation where information leakage could pose a serious threat."

A typical example is the Australian Defence Force (ADF) which has barred personnel from taking mobile phones with photographic capabilities into high security areas.

A defence spokesman said the ADF takes a tough policy stance with such devices which are treated exactly the same as a routine camera.

"The ADF recognises the security threat of portable devices that integrate photographic and audio recording capabilities with communication technologies so we have policies and procedures in place to cover the new mobile phones," he said adding that there has been no security incidents to date.

Meta Group VP of technology research services Jack Gold believes the cameras also represent a significant liability in the enterprise with the possibility of employees taking inappropriate candid shots of co-workers.

While the quality of most phone cameras in current use pretty poor, Gold said the images can still create problems and enterprises should set firm policies in positions where they are necessary such as insurance adjusters.

"Most organisations that provide phones to their employees and are evaluating new, feature-rich devices should require the vendor or supplier to permanently disable the camera," he said.

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