Users Aware of Smartphone Threats - and Want Carriers to Save Them

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Smartphone Security: Alarming Complacency Among Mobile Users

Most consumers are unaware of the security risks associated with their smartphones.

Here is a bit of good news: The acknowledgement of smartphone security concerns by users has evolved far more quickly than it did in the desktop world.

This isn't surprising, since the second time through any process is by definition a fundamentally different endeavor than the first. Who could know, in the dawn of the online era, that there would be a sizeable segment of the populace actively trying to create problems?

Now, of course, everyone does know. And, to a great extent, they are acting accordingly. But not completely. A survey by AdaptiveMobile that was released this week has some fascinating results that, in essence, suggest that people half get it. The headline of the survey-which posed questions to 2,000 smartphone users in the United States-was that 68 percent of people cite keeping data secure as the most important issue, compared to 52 percent who selected service quality/reliability. That's pretty impressive.

What's not impressive is that only 23 percent use security software (and three-quarters of those do so because it is free). Thirty percent said that they would open an SMS from somebody unknown to them and 40 percent are willing to save passwords to the phone. Indeed, while folks believe that security is important, they also believe that it is job one-for the carrier:

These same users are consistent in their certainty that not only does security responsibility lie with the carrier, but they will switch providers if their security is not maintained: with 90% saying they would change carriers if an unexpected item appeared on their bill, 85% changing carriers if they are exposed to malware / viruses, and 71% leaving the carrier due to spam.

On the enterprise side, InformationWeek describes what managers should look for. The issues include assessing the vetting process at the app stores being used (with companies perhaps starting their own), guarding against sloppy employee use of data-sharing services, doing as much as possible to ensure that patches are timely, making employees aware of the inherent insecurity of some mobile virtual private networks (VPNs) and noting the truncated length of support available to some mobile devices.

The problem is bad and getting worse. McAfee, for instance, recently released a report that said malware targeting Android rose 76 percent between the first and second quarters of this year. There are two pieces of good news: Awareness can lead to control of the problem, and that awareness is growing. The AdaptiveMobile results suggest, however, that smartphone users have not yet taken full responsibility for the security of their devices.

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