Many more council workers, NHS staff and teachers could soon wield expensive iPhones after GCHQ released guidance on how to use the Apple device securely.
The Cheltenham-based electronic intelligence agency said more use of smartphones in the public sector will actually save the taxpayer money by allowing access to emails and documents on the road.
“It will help many parts of the public sector work more efficiently and effectively,” a spokesman said.
The new guidance shows public sector technology chiefs how to set up their systems to reduce the risk of data being lost or stolen via Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and BlackBerry smartphones.
It includes configuration instructions, details of secure apps and user training advice for managers who have previously been nervous of forgetful staff or malicious hackers.
Professor Peter Sommer, a cyber security expert at the London School of Economics, said: “Smartphones have been commonplace for three or more years, so this advice seems rather slow in arriving.”
It is intended for use in “lower risk” bodies which do not handle classified material.
“The operating systems on smartphones are constantly being enhanced, largely because the market is highly competitive,” said Prof. Sommer.
“Manufacturers consider flashy features more important than security, which is why smartphones are unsafe for classified material."
Only BlackBerry devices, made by the Canadian firm RIM, are approved for classified data and only at the least sensitive level. The firm has passed GCHQ tests of its security technology - including a strong encryption system - for weaknesses that could be exploited by foreign spies.
Separately, the government has allocated £650m to improve Britain’s cyber security over the next four years. Intelligence chiefs currently see digital espionage as the greatest threat.
GCHQ said its new smartphone guidance, produced in cooperation with manufacturers, will help "lower risk" public sector bodies choose which technology would best suit their staff.
Although they are predicted to sell around twice fast as the iPhone this year, smartphones based on Google’s bestselling Android operating system were not included in the guidance.