smartphones are the new security battleground

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You can throw all the security protection you like at smartphones, tablets and mobile devices, but you must also protect your workforce against ignorance and complacency. As long as your employees aren't aware of the threats then you are vulnerable.

Many PC users have tales of malware, keyloggers, trojan horses and other nasties that kick in and cause trouble on that platform. You need anti-virus software almost as much as you need Office -- surely that's not the case on mobile devices?

Unfortunately, according to the latest batch of security reports, it is: “While smartphones are becoming increasingly popular, users should be aware that their heavy use has made them likely targets of security threats,” said Myla Pilao, Direction of TrendLabs. “Threats include worms and spyware that track users Web activity and location, make charges via SMS messages, and more.”

smartphone popularity makes them target

South Korea is one of the world’s most advanced mobile markets. Financial transactions on mobiles are highly advanced. Because these are about money, consumers there are careful, ABI Research says.

“South Koreans are keen adopters of mobile money services using mobile devices to do banking (69%), and pay bills (40%),” said ABI Research analyst, Neil Strother. “Curiously, though, most South Koreans have little confidence in the security of their mobile phones: only 7% believed they were completely or very secure, while 59% rated security as low or nonexistent.”

Renowned cryptographer and security researcher, Bruce Schneier, warns: “I believe that smart phones are going to become the primary platform of attack for cybercriminals in the coming years. As the phones become more integrated into people’s lives — smart phone banking, electronic wallets — they’re simply going to become the most valuable device for criminals to go after.”

The currently dominant Android OS saw a 472% increase in malware samples since July 2011, said GlobalThreatCenter. Even Apple’s walled garden iOS environment is not entirely secure. Security researcher Charlie Miller, for example, discovered a flaw in the platform that allowed an app to run arbitrary code, and UK newspapers reported on an ITunes flaw that enabled governments to spy on their population.

It’s these realities which drive Juniper Research to predict that mobile security software revenues will increase six-fold to $3.7 billion by 2016, driven by business demand.

help users protect themselves

As with most security issues, the biggest potential vulnerability is via users. Sophos researcher Graham Cluley explains: “An email from someone in your company tells you that there's a virus problem which has resulted in data being stolen and some files being deleted. You are told to install an anti-virus tool to clean-up the infection properly. Would you do it?”

Juniper recommends enterprise and IT managers should audit the security status of their corporate mobile device deployments. This should also include ensuring all users are aware of the nature of mobile security threats.

“Enterprise users are in the front line against potential security breaches through insufficient mobile security and companies need to incorporate mobile network connected devices into the corporate network since this is the easiest way to enforce policies and to audit such devices,” said Juniper Research author, Nitin Bhas.

credit picture: © julien tromeur - Fotolia.com

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.