Mobile phone security risks growing; Norton country manager, India, explains how

By: | Updated: July 12, 2016 3:26 PM

In today’s mobile-first world, mobile devices are more than mini computers in our pockets. Yet, most consumers unknowingly put personal information which resides on their mobile phones...

Mobile appOver one in three consumers accept than many apps they use are to collect data about them, yet one in five say they would download any app that “looked cool”, regardless of its origin. (PTI)

In today’s mobile-first world, mobile devices are more than mini computers in our pockets. Yet, most consumers unknowingly put personal information which resides on their mobile phones at risk and compromise their privacy. “Many app users are unaware of privacy trade-offs that come with some apps,” Ritesh Chopra, country manager, India, Norton by Symantec, tells Sudhir Chowdhary in an interview. Excerpts:

Smartphone users are relying on mobile apps than ever before…

The utility of mobile apps is one of the joys of using a modern mobile device. In more recent times, the focus has shifted away from just the number of apps to other parameters such as the quality of apps and user engagement, which probably has a greater impact on the end user experience than just the sheer number of apps available.

Globally, out of the 10.8 million apps analysed by Symantec’s Norton Mobile Insights in 2015, almost 3.3 million were classified as malware, a 230% increase from 2014. The Survey highlighted that with almost 50% of the population having more than 20 apps on their device, how people use their apps may represent one of the greatest threats to their device security overall. Interestingly, e-commerce apps (76%) along with mobile banking (67%) and mWallets (62%), rank amongst most popular apps, preceded by social networking (86%) and messaging apps (78%).

Do consumers trade privacy when they download new apps?

According to the Survey, only 38% of the respondents believe that most apps they use are likely to collect data about them and a minority of people are happy to source apps from non-official sources. Many are aware that these apps often asked for permissions to send promotional information and/or make use of their personal information. However, 57% say that they would usually grant permissions when asked. In fact, users have granted access to their contact lists, camera, bookmarks and geo-location in exchange for free apps and 21% of users believe that only a very small proportion of apps will be collecting any personal data and that most apps don’t do this.

Does it mean consumers are themselves to blame when it comes to mobile privacy?

Over one in three consumers accept than many apps they use are to collect data about them, yet one in five say they would download any app that “looked cool”, regardless of its origin. 36% would either always grant permissions or don’t know enough about the kind of permissions. Only 8% reject requests bearing in mind the risks involved.
Further, Indian consumers have granted the following permissions for a free app:
* Nearly one in two Indians have granted access to contacts and mobile data
* 50% have granted permission to send promotional texts/emails
* Close to 40% have granted permission to access their camera,  and browser history
* Close to 30% have granted permission to apps for tracking their geo-location.

What are some of the biggest mobile security threats perceived by India consumers?

The Survey shows that the most concerning security issues for Indian mobile users were virus/malware attacks (34%), followed by threats involving fraudulent access or misuse of credit card or bank account details (21%) and hacking or leaking of personal information (19%). While four out of five (81%) consumers concede that security risks like malware, hacking and misuse of data, cyber stalking etc. on mobile devices were just as great, if not greater than those faced while using desktops/laptops, ironically a majority (nearly 60%) of them seem to be undermining the security of their devices by dismissing these risks as fairly minimal.

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