Paris Hilton and enterprise IT

by Ivor Soans    Mar 11, 2005

Chances are you’ve heard of Paris Hilton. She featured in a recent reality show rerun on an Indian television channel, but it’s more likely you would have seen her name in some junk mail or Web ad banner offering videos of her intimate encounters. Or perhaps in some e-mail laden with a virus payload.

So, why am I writing about Paris Hilton in an online newspaper dedicated to enterprise IT? That’s because she was in the news recently, and although what happened to her had nothing to do with enterprise IT, there are some valuable lessons that enterprise IT managers could learn from the episode.

What happened was that Ms Hilton (incidentally, she’s from the Hilton family that’s famous for hotels) got into the news for the wrong reasons again. Someone hacked into her Sidekick cell phone and soon a lot of celebrity numbers in the US were up on the Net. Thanks to the resultant spate of calls, a whole lot of celebs had to change their numbers.

Some might say those hoity-toity types deserved it, but this isn’t the forum to pass judgment. The question I want to raise is this: What if the same happened to your CEO’s mobile phone or PDA/handheld device?

Considering that a whole lot of Indian organizations are investing in sales force automation to empower their sales teams, what if important sales contacts fell into a competitor’s hands?

Blackberry came into India through AirTel not too long ago and on the streets of Mumbai’s financial district I see quite a few Indian road warriors sporting Blackberry devices–what if one with vital information and contacts was stolen?

Or take the simplest scenario: how many top guns really know how to use these high-tech gizmos. I know a considerable number of folks who leave their mobile phone Bluetooth connectivity on and accept all kinds of files–just last week a friend stupidly accepted some files whilst at a mall and if it wasn’t for some last-minute presence of mind, his expensive phone would have ended up as little more than a paperweight.

You can set up all the firewalls and security appliances you want, but if you can’t protect devices like cell phones and handhelds, you leave open a back door for unscrupulous elements to wreak havoc and obtain vital information that’s worth its weight in gold.

A lot of protection at this level has to do with education and common sense, rather than IT solutions. Perhaps a good beginning would be to tell enterprise users of such devices about the latest Paris Hilton story.