Mobile Security: Where Risk Meets Opportunity: Part 1: Page 2

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Most of today's mobile devices run one of the following operating systems:

Windows Mobile: The latest member of the Microsoft Windows CE operating system family used to power PDAs and smartphones. According to Gartner, Windows Mobile topped the 2005 PDA OS market at 46 percent. However, Windows represents but a small fraction of smartphone sales. Earlier generations of this OS were called Handheld PC (HPC) and Pocket PC (PPC), as illustrated by this timeline. This article focuses on Windows Mobile 5, which has two variants: one for full-function PDAs and another for limited application smartphones.

For example, consider the Verizon Wireless XV6700: a Windows Mobile 5 PDA with Microsoft Office Mobile applications, slide-out QWERTY keyboard, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GRPS, and EV-DO wireless.

Verizon Wireless XV6700

Symbian OS: Runs on smartphones sold by Nokia, Sony-Ericsson, and many other cell phone vendors. According to Canalys, Nokia's Symbian OS sales represented nearly 55 percent of the smartphone market in 2005. Although Symbian started as a phone OS, it has grown increasingly powerful. The current version, Symbian OS 9, includes several built-in application services, as well as APIs for third-party application development.

For example, consider the Nokia N80: a Symbian S60 smartphone designed to enable internet, e-mail, web, and multimedia access over USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GSM, and UMTS 3G wireless.

Nokia N80

Palm OS: Several generations have powered Palm PDAs and Treo smartphones. Palm OS ranked third in the 2005 PDA market and a distant second (8 percent) in 2005 smartphone sales. Most devices manufactured by Palm run the Palm OS, but Palm now also sells a Windows Mobile smartphone. At this time, the most recent Palm OS is version 6, also known as Cobalt.

For example, consider the Treo 700p: a Palm OS 5.4.9 smartphone with Microsoft Office Mobile applications, integrated QWERTY keyboard, Bluetooth, cmdaOne, 1xRTT, and EV-DO 3G wireless. Note: Sibling Treo 700w has similar hardware/features, but runs Windows Mobile instead of Palm OS.

Treo 700p

BlackBerry OS: Runs on handheld devices sold by Research In Motion (RIM). In fact, BlackBerry is really the trademarked name for devices that run RIM's OS. RIM placed second in the 2005 PDA market and ranked third (7.5 percent) in 2005 smartphone sales. Third parties can now develop BlackBerry software using APIs offered by this proprietary OS, currently at version 4.

For example, consider the BlackBerry 8700c: a Bluetooth-enabled handheld that uses GSM, GPRS, or EDGE wireless for voice, internet, or corporate data access via BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, or Novell Groupwise.

There are, of course, other mobile operating systems—including dozens of mobile devices run unique incarnations of embedded Linux. (Efforts are now underway to create a uniform Linux environment for mobile devices.)

In Parts 2 and 3 of this article, we will explore security capabilities and solutions for these dominant mobile operating systems.

This article was first published on ISPPlanet.com.

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