Hosted office apps "the worst consumer IT threat" - Gartner

Hosted productivity applications are more dangerous to the enterprise than smartphones, says Gartner's John Pescatore, who warns that social networks can be used to deduce important information about an organisation.

Online versions of personal productivity applications such as Google Documents and Microsoft's Office Live represent a greater security risk than smart phones, Gartner Analyst John Pescatore told the company's Information Security Summit in Sydney today.

Citing a US example of a government employee who created an application using a hosted spreadsheet and unwittingly exposed users' credit card details, Pescatore said he believes there is considerable risk data leakage from hosted productivity applications.

The risks, he said, are greater than those created by consumer-grade smart phones, which he declared an "over-hyped" source of risk.

"Most of the risk comes when smart phones are lost," he said. "That gets noticed" and the devices are quickly locked down before any harm can be done,.

Pescatore therefore rated smart phones only third on his list of consumer IT products and services in terms of the risks they present to an enterprise.

Coming in second was social networks, which he feels allow an organisation's rivals to understand competitors' inner workings.

"Think about the ability [for a rival] to find out that the source of Tweets and blogs are your employees," he says, in order to consider how it might become possible to deduce information about the activities they are conducting. That information on offer in these social media posts, Pescatore implied, could represent competitive intelligence that is as valuable as a document which falls into the wrong hands.

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