Singaporeans lack mobile security awareness, only half use passwords

Only 3 in 5 users in country concerned about mobile cybercrime, more care about losing contact information than invasion of privacy, Symantec survey finds.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Singaporeans are dependent on mobile phones, valuing their contents on the phone, but do not have a good understanding of mobile security best practices, a Symantec survey reveals.

According to the report released Friday, mobile phone users valued the loss of contact information more than invasion of privacy; 1 in 3 users rather forgo S$10,000 (US$7,900) than lose their handset. The online survey was conducted by market research firm The Leading Edge in Feb. 2012 on 500 Singaporeans between 18 and 64 years old.

There is a dramatic change that society is becoming "impatient" and "on-demand" when it comes to information, David Freer, Symantec's Norton vice president for Asia-Pacific and Japan observed during the event here. People experience the instant gratification of getting online information anytime, anywhere and mobile devices have fuelled this need, he explained.

The survey also noted that 78 percent of stolen or lost phone victims felt losing their contact information had been the worst part of their experience, while 52 percent ranked invasion of privacy higher.

One in three Singaporeans had their mobile phones lost or stolen, and three out of five users were willing to pay a ransom of about S$273 (US$215.72) to resolve their lost or stolen phone issue, the study added.

"It can't happen to me" mentality
Symantec also noted that the survey indicated Singaporeans lacked mobile security knowledge. While 61 percent had acknowledged that mobile threats are real, almost half of them do not use passwords to protect their phones, an action which can help to protect personal information in the event of device loss or theft. 30 percent are also not aware that they can remotely track their phone using GPS navigation software.

It is "shocking" that there is a huge gap between perception and execution, David Freer, Symantec's Norton vice president for Asia-Pacific and Japan, told ZDNet Asia on the event sidelines. Many Singaporeans still have the "It can't happen to me" mentality when it comes to mobile security--they are concerned about protecting their data and privacy but are not acting on their beliefs, he explained.

The nation is tech-savvy, mobile and connected, and consumers understand online threats but mobile security threats is something they have to start being aware of, Freer, Norton vice president for Asia-Pacific and Japan observed in a statement.

"With greater connectivity to the Internet through mobile devices, cybercriminals are increasingly targeting this platform," he said. "With so much valuable and personal information residing on our mobile devices, mobile users need to have the right security measures in place--both a reliable mobile security solution and personal diligence to back up important information."

Freer also observed that the two most prevalent mobile cybercrimes in Singapore involved malware-ridden apps that steal user information from devices and the signing up of people's mobile numbers for premium SMS without approval; in both cases, users are unaware.

While Android is the most "dangerous" operating system (OS) in terms of being vulnerable to malware-ridden apps due to its open platform, mobile scams are not dependent on software so the other OSes are not safe either, he maintained.

The public needs to receive the message about the perception-execution gap, he suggested. This can be done through public-private collaboration on campaigns and working with governments to promote cybersecurity awareness, he surmised.

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