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IDC: Canadian mobile device users at risk

IDC: Canadian mobile device users at risk 

A recent IDC study highlighted the need for average Canadians to increase the security levels on their mobile devices. Kevin Lonergan, analyst, IDC, shared the report’s findings as well as advice on how Canadians can make their mobile devices more secure.

The issue is not that Canadians do not think security is important. On the contrary, they do. IDC’s study found that only 13% of respondents are not worried about securing their smartphones. The question Canadians are asking themselves is, “How can I make my mobile device more secure?” Thirty five percent of those surveyed said they wanted to improve security, but they did not know how.

Although the study focused on consumers, it has implications for Canadian businesses as well. Lonergan noted that companies are more security-conscious than individuals. “The majority of enterprise segment businesses have some form of device policy control which is a good start,” he said. However, Canadian firms still have work to do. “The next step is for Canadian organizations to deploy complete mobile device management solutions. This is especially true as the line between personal/ consumer device blurs with business device.” Lonergan cited IDC research that shows that almost a third of employees at Canadian SMBs and enterprises are allowed to bring their personal mobile devices to work. “The lack of consumer security education is making its way into the enterprise as well,” he warned.

What will it take for Canadians to become more security-savvy with their mobile devices? “Historically, better security practices have been an after-effect of successful attacks or security breaches,” Lonergan remarked. “Until now, these attacks have affected PCs or laptops. Therefore, consumers remain unaware of the dangers. “Although the threat landscape for Android and to a lesser extent iOS is extensive, the average consumer today has not yet been exposed to it,” the IDC analyst explained. “Largely publicized vulnerabilities such as iOS’ lack of encryption for mail attachments are making consumers more aware of security risks on mobile platforms, but unfortunately it will likely take large scale breaches on these platforms before it catches consumers’ attention.”

Lonergan believes there is a solution to this problem: education. “Education is the easiest way to change the mindset of Canadian consumers and better their understanding of security threats to mobile devices,” he commented. Lonergan sees an opportunity for businesses. “The real question is who should be responsible to provide this education, whether it is the manufacturer, service provider, operating system developer, or government,” he remarked. “Educating consumers could be altruistic, but if mobile security follows the same path as PC/Laptop security, it will most likely be revenue generating. Manufacturers can increase security awareness by bundling third party trial antivirus software with new devices, while similarly the service provider could do the same by providing a managed security service for a monthly fee.”

Another step consumers can take to increase the security on their mobile devices is simple, yet few people bother to take the time to do it. Creating strong passwords can protect your smartphone or tablet. “Every time you unlock your phone in a public place your password is exposed, but using a stronger password will provide more protection, since more sophisticated passwords are harder to remember or capture,” Lonergan advised.

The IDC analyst also suggested changing passwords to online accounts frequently. He acknowledged that it is a difficult task because people have so many online accounts. Password management software makes this somewhat easier. This software enables users to enter one master password for all of their online accounts. “Behind the scenes, the management software creates very strong passwords for each individual account and stores them using encryption, providing much higher security than what an individual user could perform,” Lonergan said.

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