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9/22/2011
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Smartphone Attacks Under Way

New data finds more than half of U.S. smartphone users hit with at least one security incident in the past 12 months

Predictions that the smartphone will be the next attack vector are starting to ring true: A new survey published today shows that in the past 12 months, 6 percent of smartphone users in the U.S. have had malware on their devices, and 7 percent have inadvertently downloaded a malicious app.

The Loudhouse survey, commissioned by AdaptiveMobile, also found that users consider security threats a greater criteria for trusting their mobile providers than service quality. Nearly 70 percent said trust in a carrier is all about it protecting their personal information, and 54 percent said when that data is compromised, that trust relationship suffers. Some 45 percent trust mobile carriers with their personal data; 41 percent, their mobile handset maker; 38 percent, the government; and 26 percent, social networks.

Gareth Maclachlan, chief operating officer for AdaptiveMobile, says the survey results indicate there's a lot more attacks hitting smartphones already than was believed. "Most attacks are using SMS and social engineering. It doesn't matter what kind of handset you've got in your hand -- we don't buy into the Android being less secure than the iPhone," he says, noting the number of flaws in the iPhone OS and Android are similar. "With Android, attackers are exploiting user behavior and the business model versus the technology … It's easier to write code for Android, not that it's less secure."

Maclachlan says he was surprised by the percentage of users who had already been infected with mobile malware. "We have never seen that level of infection within any operator," he says. "It's starting to pick up the fear coming out from security vendors" about mobile platforms, he says.

Nine out of 10 users said they would either change or consider changing providers if they experienced ongoing security incidents; 90 would drop their carriers if they had unauthorized items on their bills; 83 percent, for malware; and 71 percent, for spam.

More than half said they've been hit with at least one security incident in the past 12 months: Spam is the No. 1 incident, with 37 percent experiencing it. Some 16 percent found unexpected items on their mobile bills, and 15 percent were hit with SMS text phishing.

But that doesn't mean users are doing much more on their end to protect data on their smartphones. Some 40 percent said they would save passwords on their handset; 34 percent would open a text message from a sender they didn't know; and 28 percent would open an email from an unknown sender on their handsets. And only about 23 percent of users are running any security apps on their smartphones, 75 percent of whom said they only run it because it's free of charge.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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