Smartphones, Dumb Security

    If you are looking to purchase a new cell phone in the near future, odds are you are going to get a smartphone. Research firm IDC reported last week that for the first time ever, worldwide shipments of smartphones are outpacing shipments of “dumbphones.”

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    Survey Exposes Concerns About Employee Privacy for BYOD

    While more of us than ever are clamoring for the chance to check email and download Angry Birds on our phones, there is something to be said for sticking with dumbphones. According to the recently released Consumer Reports State of the Net report, when it comes to security on our smartphones, too many of us aren’t, well, very smart.

    Some of the security lapses are the fault of the end user. For instance, nearly 40 percent don’t even bother with the most minimal security steps to protect their phone. Others leave themselves exposed with location tracking. And, perhaps most chilling to me, millions of children aren’t being taught or encouraged to use secure practices with their smartphones.

    The security issue isn’t all the fault of the end user. One of the complaints by those who were surveyed was the increasing privacy intrusions of apps. According to the report, millions of people have stopped downloading apps because they want way too much information. I find it encouraging that people are taking the time to read what privileges apps are asking for when installing. I can understand why a GPS or weather app would need your location, but an app for crossword puzzles?

    The report was eye-opening as it revealed how many people are falling victim to malicious software that sends out unauthorized text messages or allows unauthorized access to the phone (nearly 6 million). It also showed that we don’t want to accept responsibility for our insecure smartphones. The most eye-roll causing finding was that bad security isn’t our fault because the screens are too small and the privacy notices too lengthy. Apparently, those people aren’t using the most recent smartphones on the market – those screens are bigger than my hand! But again, I don’t hear a lot of complaints about small screens when it comes to posting on Twitter or Facebook. It is all a matter of priorities.

    In this era of BYOD, this report should get notice in IT and security departments. Are your employees taking smartphone security seriously or are they part of that 40 percent who don’t apply any security practices on their phones? If they are lazy with their own information or don’t pay attention to what their preteens are revealing, will they step up security of corporate data?  At least it appears they are less likely to download malicious apps. Perhaps for businesses, what this report shows is that smartphones used as BYOD may still need a lot of security supervision.

    Sue Poremba
    Sue Poremba
    Sue Poremba is freelance writer based on Central PA. She's been writing about cybersecurity and technology trends since 2008.

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