The issue of mobile hacking, particularly attacks targeting smartphones, is nothing new. But a new report from Reuters exposes a market that benefits from all the hacking.
Because the once-fragmented smartphone arena is quickly becoming a two-player game (Android vs. Apple), it is becoming increasingly easier for hackers to target one or the other OS, thus doing a great deal of damage with just one hit. And everyone is looking to cash in.
Reuters reports that mobile security threats are creating big business not only for traditional anti-virus players such as McAfee and Norton, but also carriers like France Telecom and handset manufacturers like Nokia.
"The mobile security market will one day be bigger than that of computers," Index Ventures Co-Founder Neil Rimer is quoted as saying at the Reuters Global Technology Summit. "It's a no-brainer that people will pay to protect their devices, and the market will not be owned by one big player."
In fact, according to the report, market research firm Infonetics predicts mobile security software to grow by 50 percent each year over the course of the next three years, eventually becoming a $2-billion industry.
While malware and other hacks threaten all platforms, Android particularly felt the pain in March when a Trojan infected more than a quarter of a million consumer's devices. A study by Juniper Networks found that malware threats on Android quadrupled in the six-month period from June 2010 to January 2011, while the threat on all mobile devices doubled.
And even the carriers have begun to cash in. "Operators are very interested in offering security as a service to their customers as a way to generate revenue and promote customer retention," Sean Obrey told Reuters. Obrey is the head operator of business development at F-Secure, a mobile security specialty company that provides "anti-virus software and anti-theft protection" to smartphone users through approximately 40 telecom operators. The protection packages F-Secure offers can run anywhere from 5 to 10 euros per month.
While France Telecom (more commonly known as its service brand Orange) pre-packages security solutions on phones in Britain and offers paid security solutions for 3 to 9 euros to its French customers, AT&T is making plans to offer its customers security software in the U.S. But it may prove challenging.
"When you start asking [customers] what's your willingness to pay for a solution, if they're not a little frightened, their willingness to pay is nothing," added AT&T's Head of Enterprise Business, John Stankey.
It will likely take a major virus that affects a larger swath of users before consumers are willing to pay for mobile security solutions.
In the meantime, the best practice to avoid becoming a victim of mobile malware is to use common sense. Don't install or download anything from an untrusted source. Don't install an app or program that looks suspicious or sounds too good to be true. Do your research on an app or app developer before installing. Don't access personal information while connected to an open wireless network. Anyone who follows these rules can avoid becoming a victim of mobile hacks without having to shell out any more money to telecoms and software companies.