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Mobile users reveal their fears

McAfee Inc used the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to announce findings from new research in developed countries that reveals that almost three out of four mobile consumers are concerned about the security of today’s and tomorrow’s mobile services.

Mobile Security reportNo less than 72% of mobile consumers in the USA, United Kingdom and Japan are concerned about the security of today’s and tomorrow’s mobile services, such as mobile multimedia downloads, mobile payments and mobile ticketing.

This was the central finding of the McAfee Mobile Security Report 2008, released at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The report discusses in detail users’ experiences of traditional and emerging mobile services and their awareness and perceptions of mobile security issues.

The following statistics must be viewed in the context of highly developed markets – 2000 respondents were interviewed across three of the world’s leading industrial nations. The relevance therefore declines when applied to developing markets.


Key findings included the following:

  • 86% of users are worried about security risks posed to their mobile handset, such as fraudulent bill increases or information loss or theft;
  • More that one third (34%) of global mobile users question the general safety of mobile devices and services;
  • At least 79% of consumers are knowingly using unprotected devices, with an additional 15% unsure of security levels;
  • More than half of subscribers (59%) expect mobile operators to take primary responsibility for protecting mobile devices and services.

Advanced Services Concerns

While confidence levels for traditional voice and messaging services remain comparatively high, more than half of all respondents (55%) expressed concerns about mobile payments and banking services. Likewise, more than 40% were worried about mobile multimedia downloads and mobile vouchers and ticketing.

Frequent mobile Internet surfers showed levels of concern 80% higher than those who have never used such services. Overall, more than 72% of users expressed concerns regarding the safety of using emerging mobile services, with concern rates rising with market maturity.

Reality Check: Experience of Mobile Threats

Mobile security incidents may not yet rival the scale and scope of PC threats but they are increasing in volume and sophistication. More than one in ten (14%) of global mobile users have already been exposed to mobile virus incidents, either directly or they know someone who has been infected. This awareness strongly impacts user confidence with 80% worried about the possibility of a mobile virus infecting their friends and colleagues.

Mobile messaging is also growing in prevalence. More than a third of subscribers (38.6%) claim to typically receive ‘annoying’ spam messages at least once a month. In Japan this rises to more than a quarter (26.1%) getting spammed daily.

Security Responsibilities

Despite growing concerns, at least 79% of consumers are knowingly using unprotected devices, with an additional 15% unsure of security levels. Almost 60% of mobile users expect mobile operators to take primary responsibility for protecting their mobile devices and services and more than half (56%) believe security features should be pre-installed on the handset at the time of purchase and provided free of charge.

“Concerns about specific mobile security risks or the loss of credibility in the reliability of services is a crucial issue for operators, particularly in mature markets. Yet, this research clearly highlights that consumer fears are growing in tandem with increased mobile functionality, jeopardizing the success of new revenue-generating services and increased operator ARPU,” said Victor Kouznetsov, senior vice president of McAfee Mobile Security.

“Retaining consumer confidence will prove critical in ensuring life value and listening to the end user is becoming ever more important in creating innovative and intuitive services which subscribers will want, and trust, to use and are prepared to pay for.”

McAfee Mobile Security Risk Management is a modular three-prong approach to enable mobile operators designed to help operators create a secure framework on which to build future services. The approach allows mobile operators to understand and mitigate security risks to their business, to protect and give peace of mind to customers, and to avoid the negative impact on their brand and business from malicious attacks.

  • The research was conducted by Datamonitor among 2000 mobile consumers with responses spread evenly across the US, UK and Japan. For more information and for a free copy of the report, visit the McAfee mobile web site.



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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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