McAfee warns of mobile-malware threat

A survey by the security company reveals that over half of mobile users expect operators to take responsibility for protecting their devices
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor

Mobile operators are being warned to take security more seriously as the rise of the mobile internet and richer data services creates new security challenges and raises the spectre of mobile malware.

More than 86 percent of mobile users have at least some level of concern relating to the security of their device, according to the results of McAfee's 2008 Mobile Security Report into consumer attitudes to handset threats, published at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona this week.

And more than half (59.4 percent) expect operators to take primary responsibility for protecting their mobile devices and services, the survey found. The majority of those who indicated a preference would favour a security solution being preloaded onto the handset.

This chimes with enterprise user concerns, according to Jason Chapman, research vice president at analyst Gartner. "Security is something that the enterprise takes very seriously, and the problem is it's not something that consumers take so seriously when they're buying those devices that next week they will be bringing into the office," he said.

The top three areas of concern for mobile users are receiving inappropriate content, fraudulent increases in phone bills and loss of important information stored on the handset, according to McAfee.

Regular users of the mobile internet are considerably more concerned about security than those who never use their handsets for browsing, the survey found. Likewise, users of mobile services — such as banking and mobile ticketing — displayed raised levels of concern over security.

Users are most concerned about the security of mobile banking and payments services (55 percent), followed by multimedia services and mobile tickets/vouchers. They are least worried about the security of voice services.

Viruses worming their way onto phones remains a relatively rare occurrence, with just 2.1 percent of users reporting an encounter with a mobile virus.

And, while a greater proportion of users have apparently heard of someone who has been affected by mobile malware (11.6 percent), the vast majority have neither had nor heard of any incidents (86.3 percent).

The McAfee survey polled more than 2,000 consumers from Japan, the UK and the US.

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