Smartphone Users Ignoring Security Risks

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2009-09-03 Print this article Print

A recent survey conducted by researchers at Trend Micro found that many smartphone owners remain oblivious to security risks despite using their handhelds for a growing range of applications that could introduce potential problems, such as Web surfing.

According to the study, many users are under the impression that their phones are significantly more secure than there computers, which may be the case for now, but will likely change over time as attackers shift more of their attention to mobile devices, Trend researchers said.

Roughly 30 percent of respondents said they were confident that they were far less likely to have their mobile devices infected while cruising the mobile Web, versus using their computers online.

Of the 1,000 respondents to the survey, some 44 percent admitted that they do not keep security issues in mind as they surf the Web via their phones, and that they are more concerned with potential data loss if their handheld is somehow misplaced or stolen.

Yet, in perhaps the most shocking statistic offered in the report, some 45 percent of those interviewed admitted that they have already fallen victim to malware attacks delivered over their phones.

Meanwhile, some 50 percent of respondents said that they have received spam on the smartphones over the last three months, with 17 percent admitting that they have experienced a noticeable increase in mobile spam in the same timeframe.

While 25 percent said that they receive at least six spam messages per week on their phones, only 10 percent said that mobile spam appears to be decreasing in frequency.

In a sign of what could become a very problematic pattern of behavior, 39 percent admitted that they click on a URLs carried in mobile emails without first considering the security implications.

Only 20 percent of those surveyed said that they knew they'd received a phishing attack on their devices, with 10 percent of those respondents reporting that they'd actually fallen prey to the schemes.

For those smartphone owners who actually have AV programs installed on their devices, Trend Micro found that only 23 percent actively use the programs.

Overall it is clear that mobile devices do remain significantly less at risk to malware and other attacks than traditional computing devices, but the number of users already encountering threats, combined with a lack of sensitivity to mobile security issues could result in major issues going forward as more wireless security issues emerge, Trend experts contend.

"Quite unfortunate is the fact that users' assumption that mobile phones are spared of attacks by cybercriminals is very much incorrect, as mobile threats have been around for the past four years now," Bernadette Irinco, a technical communications official with Trend, said in a related blog post.

"As mobile phones become more Web-based and as users more heavily rely on them to conduct their day-to-day business, potential risks brought about by phishing and other Web threats will become more rampant."

Follow eWeek Security Watch on Twitter at: eWeekSecWatch.

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to |

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