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Spying on top-secret documents through the camera in a company iPad

I have information about a company iPad and a security risk that you should know about. It came from a man in a military uniform at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo that wrapped up in Orlando this week.

Now, it’s rare for me to hear something at an industry conference that makes me freeze in my seat, hold my breath and hope to hell no one notices I’m taking notes. But that was the case at this conference’s CIO Town Hall on mobility, where the audience was encouraged to talk about issues related to mobile computing.

For talk they did — about the financial costs associated with “bring your own device” versus company-owned mobile devices, for example. About disaster recovery for mobile devices. About the relative merits and shortcomings of the mobile device management vendors out there. (P.S.: Just because your name is Good doesn’t necessarily mean everybody thinks you are.) Whether virtualizing desktops is the answer to making mobility work in the enterprise. Whether it is the CIO’s job to give employees the device they want.

Click on the links and you’ll see that these are issues we’ve tackled on this year, as mobile computing is reshaping — at warp speed, it sometimes seems — how IT provisions and supports the technology employees use to do their jobs. But let me tell you, it was edifying to hear first-hand, nuanced accounts from CIOs across many industries about these topics and other problems we haven’t even considered — it was eye-opening, actually. People were not afraid to raise a problem and say they didn’t know how they were going to fix it. When Gartner Inc. says it’s early days for mobile computing, it’s right. The CIOs’ concerns revealed how few standards and best practices currently exist for managing the growing portfolio of consumer devices that are taking over enterprise computing. My promise is to keep tackling these problems one by one, in as much depth as possible.

Now, about the man in the uniform. I was too far away to see a nametag. I wouldn’t give his name anyway, given what came out of his mouth. Let’s go to the tape: The new chief of staff for a branch of the military came in with an iPad and wanted to use it. And so, the security folks for this military service decided to show him how unsecure it was. They hacked his iPad and were able to see a classified document on his desk through its camera. That woke him up, the man in the uniform said. He passed it along as a useful bit of intel for CIOs for when their CEOs demanded iPads.

On another note, I had a birthday yesterday, one of those ones that husbands can’t ignore, so my spouse dutifully stepped up. Guess what I got? Fortunately (or unfortunately for my career as a news reporter), I don’t have any secret documents on my desk.

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