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AVG/Ponemon study concludes users unaware of the security risks of smartphones

As reported previously by Infosecurity, smartphones are expected to account for 24% of mobiles in the UK and US by the end of this year, and it’s against this backdrop that the AVG-sponsored Ponemon study notes that 89% of users said they were unaware their apps could transmit payment card information without their explicit consent.

The report, which drew in responses from more than 700 random adults in the US, found that 91% of respondents were unaware that financial applications for smartphones can be infected with specialised malware designed to steal credit card numbers and online banking credentials.

Despite this, 29% reported storing their credit and debit card information on their devices and 35% said they were storing 'confidential' work related documents as well.

Delving into the report reveals that consumers seem to be unaware of the security risks associated with their smartphones.

"This could be attributed, in part, to the lack of information being published about smartphone security risks. We also conclude that there may be a perception that because the most popular uses are phoning and emailing they are not putting the data on their smartphones at risk", notes the report in its conclusions.

The report goes on to say that, in contrast, the security of desktop and laptop computers receives much more attention.

"It is not surprising, therefore, that consumers surveyed are more worried about protecting their computers from security risks. This is despite the fact these devices can contain just as much sensitive data that if lost or stolen could result in financial harm", it says.

Interestingly, this lack of awareness of the fact that smartphones needs just as much – if not more – security and secure behaviour as desktops is echoed in users' mobile social networking habits.

56% of respondents did not know that failing to properly log off from a social network app could allow an impostor to post malicious details or change personal settings without their knowledge.

Of those aware, AVG says that 37% were unsure whether or not their profiles had already been manipulated.

Commenting on the report's findings, Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute, said that smartphone security risks could be overlooked in many organisations.

“Because consumers in our study report that they often use smartphones interchangeably for business and personal, organisations should make sure their security policies include guidelines for the appropriate use of smartphones that are used for company purposes", he explained.

Over at AVG Technologies, JR Smith, the firm's CEO, said that the industry has an increasing responsibility to educate consumers on the dangers lurking in mobile broadband and to help users take ownership of their mobile data security.

"The mobile internet does not have to be a risky environment, though the industry must work together to encourage users to take action by downloading low-cost or free anti-virus products specifically designed to protect mobile data", he said.

"In the last month alone, we’ve seen high-profile mobile security lapses with dozens of infected applications being removed from Google's Android App Store, and such occurrences will only become more frequent without action from the industry and consumers alike", he added. 

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