SMS Diligence

SMS, the short message service, is enjoying a boom. Consumers, businesses and governments are increasingly using it. This raises security issues.

Practise safe texts

With the recent news that the UK is now sending one billion SMS messages a week, there is no doubt that this has rapidly become a preferred way to communicate, and not just with the general public. An increasing proportion of usage is from businesses and governments, which have realised that SMS is an ideal way to communicate quickly and easily with their staff.

We are now past early-adoption stages for this type of application of SMS technology and are seeing increased numbers of blue chip companies using SMS on a daily basis. They are texting their engineers with appointments, broadcasting management information and managing passwords via SMS. It's fast, reliable, auditable and secure. As the head of the Mobile Data Association, Mike Short, commented, "it's a lot more convenient for a business now to notify lots of their employees using a text message".

However, as more commercially sensitive data is sent via SMS, the importance of security becomes increasingly relevant. Has your SMS solution provider established a solid foundation in complying with data legislation? Does it have a history of handling sensitive data?

When running diligent business practices, you need to know where your business data is being stored and what path it takes. It's difficult to know what is behind a website. Many 'SMS websites' may send your data via 3rd party resellers, who may route the data round the globe in a format easily readable by lots of unknown parties. One very important question to ask your provider is "do they have a direct relationship with any of the established networks?" You should check that your provider injects the data directly into your home country's mobile networks via secure protocols.

You also need to be aware that with data retention legislation such as RIPA, your data is often stored by providers and you need to know that they are secure.

Businesses are starting to depend more on text messaging for their business practices, and its vital they check that their providers operate across several different sites and have a demonstrable infrastructure capability - without those assurances, it would be easy for any technical issues they have to impact on business.

As SMS starts to become more of a key component in business processes, it's important that procurement of your SMS service follows the same diligence path as the rest of your IT infrastructure - it has to work. We agree with predictions that SMS will continue to grow and from our own experience we can see that it will become an increasingly popular option for businesses and governments, as long as they are assured that the personal and often sensitive data they are communicating is secure. 

Dr Adam Beaumont is director of aql

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