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Clarifying mobile encryption requirements for 201 CMR 17.00 compliance

When I reported on amendments to the Massachusetts data protection law earlier this week, one of the comments that undersecretary of consumer affairs Barbara Anthony made was a point of interest to many enterprise IT professionals who must determine what 201 CMR 17.00 compliance will mean.

Specifically, Anthony stated that, “We know right now that there’s no widespread technology for encrypting mobile devices, but we know it’s there for laptops.”

This driver is using two phones at once
Image via Wikipedia

Given that the regulation’s language includes a requirement for encryption where “technically feasible,” the issue demanded clarification. I contacted Secretariat CIO Gerry Young, who was involved in drafting the original regulation. He offered the following guidance on mobile encryption:

“This just belies unfamiliarity with the current state of encryption. Even a cursory scan will show that technologies like Snapcell, Navastream, AlertBoot, SecurStar PhoneCrypt, Endoacustica and Babylon nG have carried cell phone encryption to fairly sophisticated stages.

“Encryption for cellular phones has evolved beyond even enterprise-class smartphones, and you are beginning to see robust offerings for 3G phones available at attractive price points.

“European companies like Navastream (Germany) are making inroads in U.S. markets to fill a clear void. This will help to drive competition, and push price points lower for the consumer.

“I would think that once there are free, open source encryption alternatives — along with a plethora of low-cost encryption vendors in the cellular market — that we would be ready to mandate cell phone encryption in the near future.”

In other words, encrypting mobile devices and smartphones remains a best practice, particularly where resident PII is present, but is not mandated for 201 CMR 17.00 compliance — yet.

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