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Cracked Bluetooth

Opinion: The security issues surrounding Bluetooth are creating a dilemma for some IT shops. Should they ban Bluetooth outright and risk unregulated usage, or find another approach? Right now, there's no clear answer.

This just in: Bluetooth is everywhere. OK, that's not a news flash. Still, now that the short-range wireless networking technology is built into so many smart phones and PDAs -- and even PalmOne is jumping on the Bluetooth bandwagon -- that it's getting tough to avoid. I'm sure you or someone you work with uses Bluetooth to beam information back and forth from a handheld, or maybe turn the stereo system into a speakerphone in those fancy-schmancy Bluetooth automobiles.

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That's the predicament some IT shops find themselves in today. In many cases, employees are using their own Bluetooth devices in the line of duty, unknowingly exposing personal and corporate data. In case you haven't heard, many Bluetooth devices are vulnerable to attack. There may not be many miscreants out there "bluesnarfing" information today because of the time and trouble involved, but there was once a time when the same can be said about computer viruses and spam, and now both have become expensive burdens. In fact, just a few weeks ago Gartner advised businesses to disable Bluetooth functionality on their employees' devices.

That's why we were a bit surprised this week that In-Stat/MDR was so bullish on Bluetooth, stating that during the five-year period from 2003 to 2008, Bluetooth device shipments will enjoy a CAGR of 60%. Of course, the bottom line is that -- unlike many wireless technologies -- Bluetooth just plain works, and as long as it is affordable and makes life easier, then consumers will keep buying up Bluetooth devices in droves.

For enterprises, it's just another pitfall on the IT landscape, because as Jupiter analyst Avi Greengart told us, "If an employee just spent $400 on a device, and the IT department tells him that he can't use it, he will probably just ignore the policy."

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