Malware attacks are only affecting a minority of mobile devices, but mobile security is moving quickly up the industry agenda.
Researchers at McAfee said malware is hitting mobile device users around the world at increasing rates.
The study, which was performed by Informa Telecoms and Media and sponsored by McAfee, found 83 percent of mobile operators surveyed have been hit by mobile device infections, and that nearly half of the operators that have experienced mobile malware outbreaks have had one within the last three months.
"I think thats a very dramatic number," said Jan Volzke, McAfees head of marketing for mobile security. "[Were talking] all sorts of malware with malicious intent."
The research was conducted between December 2006 and January 2007, and was targeted toward mobile operators worldwide. There were more than 200 responses to the questionnaire, McAfee officials said.
Some of the malware disabled telephone functions, and some of it was spyware, Volzke said. But all of it, he continued, had an impact on customer confidence and cost money in man hours and profits.
But users should not throw their cell phones away just yet. The 200 respondents to the survey only reported five incidents where more than 100,000 mobile devices were affected by malwarea drop in the bucket compared to the number of mobile device users. Most of the incidents involved between 100 and 1,000 devices, according to the study.
But the study also found that companies are not taking enough action. Less than one-third of the operators who consider application and device-level protection important actually deploy protection at these levels, the study reported.
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However, 85 percent of respondents said they plan to increase their mobile security budgets to address issues such as network intrusion, mobile viruses, denial-of-service attacks, and SMishing (spam and mobile phishing).
The main impact of security incidents was on customer satisfaction, with nearly one-third of operators stating subscriber satisfaction had suffered more than anything else, including revenue.
"This research clearly demonstrates that mobile security is moving quickly up the industry agenda with the number of malware incidents rising and more time and money being dedicated to resolving mobile security issues," said Victor Kouznetsov, senior vice president of McAfee Mobile Security, in a statement.
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