Network Security for Smartphones: Psychological and Economic Considerations

Next Generation Communications Blog

Network Security for Smartphones: Psychological and Economic Considerations

By Mae Kowalke

The recent phone hacking scandal in Britain illustrates just how insecure smartphones and other mobile devices can be. The proliferation of smartphone apps available for platforms like Apple’s iOs and the Android OS have opened up gaping network security holes, and hackers have predictably swooped in to take advantage.

Affordable, simple mobile security solutions are desperately needed. This presents a big opportunity for network services providers, especially those getting into the business of cloud services and end-to-end 4G LTE. To effectively take advantage of this opportunity, it is necessary to address both psychological and economic considerations.

In a recent TechZine article, The Economics and Psychology of Security, David Benco, Solutions Architect at Alcatel-Lucent, outlined three main reasons why now is the time for network service providers offering, or planning to offer, cloud services to really buckle down and focus on security.

Most smartphone application developers focus on the functionality of their apps, not on security. This puts the onus on service providers to think about keeping user data secure. Although users may not want to pay more for the app itself should it offer better security, the same likely isn’t true for connectivity service.

Economics favor criminal hackers, who have a much easier time nowadays breaching weak network security than in the past. Every compromised smartphone is worth much, much more to the hacker than the value of a given app (typically in the $0.99-$5 range). Service providers are in a position to fight back and protect users.

Most consumers are aware that smartphone apps pose a security threat, but do not have the time to figure out the complexities that would be necessary to protect their data. Service providers can help by simplifying the process, and it’s likely the added security is something consumers would pay for.

“Smart phones simply represent the next frontier of opportunity for identity theft, financial loss, and hacking mischief,” Benco noted. “A recent study of popular smartphone apps by ViaForensics found widespread deviance from the most basic security tenets and violations of security best practices.”

Legislation has largely been ineffective for these types of security threats. Instead, Benco suggested that it might be possible to develop a “guardian” application to report security issues to a smartphone’s owner and provide options for solutions like encryption.

This is something that network service providers probably should think about. The key would be developing a solution that addresses the psychological and economic aspects of mobile security.


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