Cybersecurity Goes Mobile

New study shows e-commerce on-the-go is way up, but awareness of mobile security measures remains flat.

Even before the holiday shopping season of 2011 kicked into high gear, polling data released by the non-profit National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) in partnership with anti-virus software provider McAfee showed half of American smartphone owners are now using their mobile devices to engage in at least some level of e-commerce. However, only a small percentage of those shoppers gave any thought to the security of their mobile devices and the safety of the sensitive financial data being beamed to and from their smartphones.

The findings are part of NCSA and McAfee’s annual home user study conducted by Zogby International. The study queried Internet users on a variety of topics related to online activity at their homes and from their mobile devices. Of those respondents who own an Internet-connected smartphone, 50% report using the device to research potential online purchases in the past six months. More than 27% of users say they have actively shopped the mobile Web sites of retailers and/or auction services during that time, while 12% have made and paid for complete purchases all from their smartphones. Nearly one quarter of smartphone users (23%) also report adding a mobile banking app to their devices during the same six-month time period.

As expected, those numbers are up significantly from 2010. Only a year ago, fewer than 8% of smartphone users reported paying for purchases on their mobile devices. That means the share of smartphone owners transmitting credit card numbers and other sensitive personal data from their smartphones has risen more than 50% in less than a year’s time.

Also on the rise, according to the NCSA and McAfee, are the frequency and sophistication of malware attacks aimed at mobile Internet users. Specifically, mobile malware attacks were up more than 46% between 2009 and 2010, the most recent years for which data is available. McAfee predicts that by 2013 more than 1 out of every 20 smartphones will fall victim to a digital attack designed to steal financial or personal data.

Still, 72% of those polled in the NCSA study say they have no security software, security-related apps or other active cybersecurity measures on their phones. The survey indicates the absence of effort toward mobile cybersecurity is not for lack of concern. At home and on the go, 42% of online shoppers surveyed say they have abandoned an online purchase during the last 12 months for security reasons, typically because the shoppers were unsure that the retailers website was secure and/or the site requested more personal information than the shopper felt was necessary.

The study’s authors believe failure to properly secure mobile devices is the result of poor market penetration for mobile security software and the belief that the manufacturers of the devices themselves build sufficient cybersecurity tools into the smartphone’s on-board software.

Source: “New Survey Shows Importance of Mobile Online Safety as More Americans Shop From Smartphones This Holiday Season

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