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October 15, 2013

Over 80 Percent of Smartphones Unprotected from Malware and Attacks

There is an old saying in the U.S. that goes, “An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.” The bad news in the results from a recent report by Juniper Research was the finding that over 80 percent of the total enterprise and consumer owned smartphone device base will remain unprotected through 2013. The good news is that there is increased consumer awareness of mobile security threats, which is creating healthy markets for mass market and enterprise security solutions.

Big numbers create big opportunity

For those who follow such things, the high percent of devices without protection should come as no surprise. Juniper says that the current low level of adoption of security software can be attributed to the relatively low consumer awareness about online attack vulnerabilities on mobile devices and what they believe is the “widespread consumer perception that the price of security products is excessive.” 

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The bigger issue along with smartphones and tablets not shipping with basic safeguards in the form of apps for anti-malware suppliers is what is known in industry terms as “fragmentation.” This refers to service providers not pushing the latest Android OS out to their customers, unlike Apple whose iOS 7 update swamped servers around the world, which despite all of the security measures put in place by Google leaves many if not most members of that user community lagging behind in beating back the bad guys. 

On the brighter side of things, the report found that nearly 1.3 billion mobile devices including smartphones, feature phones and tablets are expected to have mobile security software installed by 2018, up from around 325 million this year.

Key finds on increasing risks and growth of enterprise market for securing BYOD devices

The highlights of the research were actually encouraging. They include:

The "Mobile Security: BYOD, mCommerce, Consumer & Enterprise 2013-2018" report found that security risks are rising dramatically due to an explosion of mobile malware over the last two years. Bad actors are rapidly transitioning their focus from PCs to mobile platforms - across both enterprise and consumer segments including exploiting where they overlap creating significant vectors of vulnerability. The authors say their findings support Trend Micro’s data showing that that there will be more than one million malwares in the market by the end of 2013. 

Nevertheless, the report asserted that steadily increasing consumer awareness, allied to far greater visibility of product adoption levels, had resulted in rapid service adoption during H2 2012, leading to higher than anticipated service revenues for security vendors.

Juniper also explained how and why there is significant growth and opportunity in the enterprise space for security products. The report states this is being fuelled by a number of factors, including increases in IT budgets and greater implementation of security policies and security products; along with training for employees. It notes, “With the trend of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) where employees bring their own computing devices to the workplace becoming increasingly common, a single policy or measure may not be sufficient and a unified perspective on mobile platform risks is critical.”

Other key findings include:

  • Despite the prevalence of free security software, the scale of cyber-crime’s expansion in the mobile arena offers a clear opportunity for the creation of a new revenue streams for mobile security providers.
  • Device manufacturers and security vendors need to strike a balance between security and user-friendliness.

The “Mobile Security – What’s the Risk?” white paper is available to download from the Juniper website together with further details of the full report and the attendant Mobile Security Interactive Forecast Excel.

While the report is aimed at providing the mobile vendors a snapshot of the mobile devices security landscape and the opportunities available for addressing growing user awareness and interest and providing new revenue streams, there is also a good lesson here for all of us. Ignorance is not bliss, and it would be wise to make sure your device is running the latest OS as well as one of the popular and in many cases free anti-virus apps that can be downloaded from Apple and Google’s app stores. 

Edited by Alisen Downey

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