Does Your Mobile Device Come With Built-In Security?

Friday Feb 15th 2008 by David Needle
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McAfee-sponsored research finds mobile users expect vendors to pre-install 24 x 7 protection.

Security vendor McAfee released results of a survey of mobile users focused on their awareness and concerns related to security threats, which showed more than three quarters of respondents don't have any security at all.

The survey was conducted on McAfee's behalf by analysis firm Datamonitor and released this week. Respondents were spread evenly between the U.S., the U.K. and Japan. It found 79 percent of mobile device owners don't use any antivirus or other security software on their devices at all while 15 percent said they were unsure if their device had security software.

However, the number is somewhat misleading, as many of the mobile devices are non-PCs, such as Blackberries, iPhones and other smart phones. These products have generally not been the targets of malware, and there is not any antivirus software available for them.

McAfee concedes there is a considerable gap between the volume and severity of threats facing PC users versus mobile. The company also notes the relatively closed software architecture of most mobile devices prevents user from installing security software.

That said, people aren't necessarily clamoring to buy third party solutions. A majority (six out of ten) of users surveyed said they expect mobile operators to take primary responsibility for protecting their mobile devices and security.

People who use more advanced mobile services, such as Web surfing, raised the most security concerns in the study. McAfee posits that mobile security stands to become a much bigger issues as Web 2.0 technology (social networks, blogs and other user-generated content) makes its way to mobile world.

Specifically, McAfee said the spread of user-generated content dramatically increases the exposure of confidential and personal data over the network.

"We are witnessing the evolution of an entirely new wireless experience, where applications are no longer tied to specific devices and networks and mobile users are able to reap many of the rewards they already enjoy on the Internet," said Victor Kouznetsov, a senior vice president at McAfee, in a statement.

Kouznetsov noted that many of the latest mobile security measures have focused on handset and network security. With the spread of Web 2.0, he said mobile content certification and mobile application assurance will become more essential in maintaining user trust and confidence.

Spam has been filling up PC user's inboxes for years and a variety of client and server tools exist to filter and control its spread. But McAfee said mobile users face a new round of annoying and unwanted messages. McAfee said the majority of mobile devices do not have any filtering tools.

The security vendor also noted the majority of mobile devices today prevents the user from installing effective spam protection tools against commercial and malicious messages, including phishing (define) attempts.

Google's well-publicized efforts to create more open networks and services via its Android phone initiative, have spurred Verizon and other mobile providers to offer more access to developers. The first phones powered by Google's Android operating system are due out in the second half of this year. Apple is scheduled to release a software development kit for its iPhone line later this month.

Adapted from Internetnews.com.

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