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Anti-Theft Solutions for BlackBerry Devices
By Jeff Goldman
As more and more sensitive data is shared on BlackBerry smartphones, ensuring the security and recoverability of the devices themselves, as well as the data residing on them, becomes increasingly crucial.
A wide range of providers now offer comprehensive security and anti-theft solutions for the BlackBerry, serving the needs of customers ranging from single users to large enterprises.

Todd Frazier, systems administrator for the county government of Culpeper County, Va. , oversees a countywide deployment of 55 BlackBerry smartphones. "We knew, when we were told by the country administrator that we were going to be deploying them, that we didn't want to put them out in the field without any type of anti-virus/anti-theft protection on them, because it would basically be a direct link back to our network exchange server," he says.

Frazier chose SMobile's Security Shield, which includes a full range of anti-malware, anti-spam and anti-theft functionality, including the ability to wipe a device remotely. He says he's only had to use the system to wipe a Blackberry smartphone twice -- once when an employee was fired, and another time when the device was misplaced and later found.

What's far more significant, Frazier says, is what hasn't happened. "We haven't had any viruses, or anything that has taken the system out... and we would attribute that to having that extra step of protection on the device," he says. "In today's world, you hear so many nightmare stories that we just were looking for that extra added protection that would give us peace of mind."

And the fact that most of his users don't set a device password, Frazier says, makes it even more crucial to be able to wipe the device immediately if necessary.
"If they do misplace it, or if somebody swipes it from them, it gives them direct access into their email accounts -- and since we're a county government, and we're dealing with department heads and boards of supervisors and people in those types of positions, we can't allow that situation to happen," he says.

SMobile's Mobile Security Management online interface provides Frazier with an overview of all deployed devices, allowing him to manage all aspects of the system. From that interface, he can remotely wipe a device, remove or update the VirusGuard anti-virus client software on the device, and access a wide range of reports and logs. "It's very helpful in keeping track of what we have out there," he says.

When he first deployed the solution, Frazier says, he left it up to each user to update their own virus definitions, but he says he quickly learned that wasn't the best way to run things. "We found out that they were going two or three months without running an update -- so I just took it out of their hands and put it back into my control," he says.

Anti-theft systems can be attractive to far smaller organizations as well: Rik Noring is the manager of the Corvette Center of Colorado Springs, Colo., a family business founded in 1976. Noring says he installed Convenience Software's GetItBack application on his wife's BlackBerry Curve after spending hours one day trying to find it when it was misplaced.

He's not particularly worried about the device being stolen, he says. Instead, just knowing that he would be able to find it anywhere was his key concern. "I've not, so far, had to use it -- I've tried it a few times just to make sure I was comfortable using it if she does lose it, but I've not had to light it up yet," Noring says.

And in the meantime, Noring says he's eager to install the solution on other company handsets. "I tend to drop them in our cars, and can't remember which car I was in last... it gets fun to try and find them," he says.

In addition to SMobile and GetItBack, other popular anti-theft solutions include GadgetTrak, WaveSecure, VAPSSKY's RobLock, Absolute Software's Computrace Mobile, and BAK2u's PhoneBAK.

Do you have anti-theft software deployed? If so, which solution did you choose, and why -- and have you ever had to use it? Discuss this topic and others at BlackBerry Brigade.
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