Security Vendors Target Mobile Operators

McAfee and Symantec are interested in helping mobile operators take charge of securing mobile devices.

Symantec and McAfee are making a play to help mobile operators secure consumer-oriented phones.

Both companies have recently made plays around mobile security; McAfee with the release of McAfee VirusScan Mobile, and Symantec with the launch of Norton Smartphone Security, which provides complete protection for both Windows Mobile and Symbian devices in one product.

The United States hasn't seen as much in the way of viruses and attacks targeting mobile devices, but the trend may touch North American shores soon enough, said Paul Miller, managing director of mobile security at Symantec.

"Most viruses to date currently target the Symbian platform, which isn't as prevalent in the U.S.," he said. "However, the data rates in North America are some of the highest in the world. With more phones connecting, we will begin to see a much larger spread. In addition, increased adoption provides a much broader attack base. Hackers will naturally gravitate to this platform as their attack options grow," Miller said.

Officials at both companies said they are also reaching out to mobile operators to extend mobile security beyond the enterprise segment. Enterprises can afford to buy smart phones, which allows them to institute and manage security, said Jan Volzke, global marketing manager of McAfee Mobile Security.

But smart phones make up only a small portion of the overall mobile device market, making security for users of other kinds of mobile devices elusive and leaving a window of opportunity open for McAfee, he said.

Customers clearly want mobile operators to embed security into their devices, said Volzke. A recent study done by Datamonitor and McAfee found 59 percent of respondents want operators to carry the burden of securing devices. The report surveyed 2,000 mobile consumers from the United State, the UK and Japan.

In addition, the report noted that 86 percent of mobile users are worried about security risks posed to their mobile handset, such as fraudulent bill increases or information loss or theft. Thirty-four percent of global mobile users question the general safety of mobile devices and services, and at least 79 percent of consumers are knowingly using unprotected devices.

Volzke said McAfee is working with the mobile device industry to encourage operators to be proactive in addressing the security concerns of users.

Symantec has pursued deals with operators as well.

"Symantec originally focused on securing enterprises because they are required to protect their data under compliancy," said Miller. "Recently, (mobile) operators have begun targeting SMBs (small and midsize businesses), and as a result, we have had much more interaction with them. In addition, the consumer adoption of smart phones has also increased, bringing with it the attention of these operators. This kind of adoption has occurred in Japan... Emerging markets, such as Africa, have also been a focus for mobile operators. Symantec currently has operator deals in both of these markets."

"I think the experience Symantec gained in selling directly to the enterprise will benefit operators as they expand beyond traditional consumer services," he added.