Over three quarters of mobile phone users are aware that malware can infect a mobile device via Bluetooth - but fail to have security software installed, according to this survey. Independent research commissioned by F-Secure questioned web users aged 20 to 40 across the US, Canada, UK, France and Germany about their knowledge of online and mobile security issues.
On average, 28 per cent of all respondents said they use their mobile device to access the Internet. A large majority, 86 per cent admitted to having no mobile security. Out of all the countries questioned, the UK had the highest percentage (47 pc) of users accessing the Internet through their mobile device, while at the same time being the least likely to have a security product installed on their mobile phone. Most users are aware of the security risks involved with using the connectivity features on their phone: only 21 percent regarded Bluetooth connections safe, and a mere 15 per cent were under the impression WiFi connections are safe.
Over half of those questioned felt it was up to the individual user to ensure their phone was protected. A third expected this to be taken care of by their mobile phone carrier, with the US putting the greater emphasis on third-party responsibility. Only 11 per cent of Germans believed their mobile phone provider should be in charge of security, compared with over 32 per cent in France.
"While the mobile threat is low at present, it's only a matter of time before Internet criminals start utilizing the growing potential that smartphone usage presents to them," warned Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure. "So far there have been about 400 mobile viruses detected, but as smartphones replace PC's as the dominant Internet platform, we can expect this figure to rise."
Geographically the sources of mobile threats are spread around the globe with activity originating for instance in South-East Asia, Russia and South America. While the threat from mobile viruses remains low, there has been increasing activity with spyware applications for mobile phones. Such applications make it possible to get covert access to all the functions of the affected phone, including recording of phone calls, access to messages and switching on the phone's microphone for listening.
The low amount of security software installed on smartphones coupled with the rapidly increasing volume of these devices make them a very vulnerable target for hackers.
The survey was carried out by a third party in January 2008 across 1,169 Internet users aged 20-40 across the US (225 respondents), Canada (228 respondents), the UK (227 respondents), France (256 respondents) and Germany (224 respondents). F-Secure asked respondents a series of basic online security questions and, using a Likert scale, asked them to rate the extent to which they were confident in the security of given online activities.