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ONS Report Highlights Confusion Over ‘Smartphone Security’

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has warned that a lack of awareness about mobile security may be a cause for concern in the future, as smartphone threats mount.

Published yesterday, the latest ONS bulletin, Internet access – households and individuals, Great Britain: 2018, revealed that mobile phones are the most popular device used to access the internet, with 78% of UK adults logging-on in 2018.

However, there are question marks around security. Over a quarter (26%) of respondents said they didn’t have any on their device while 24% said they didn’t know if there was security installed.

“Although the proportion of adults who had lost information or data as a result of a virus or hostile program was only 2%, this could potentially become a concern in the future due to lack of awareness surrounding the importance of security installation,” the ONS warned.

However, experts claimed that most smartphones come with a good level of in-built protections. John Kozyrakis, staff research engineer at Synopsys’ Software Integrity Group, argued the ONS report confuses 'smartphone security' with third-party security apps.

“Both Android and Apple iOS automatically install several security software components on user devices to combat malware and viruses. Users are typically unaware of these actions, as the relevant security components are ‘under the hood’ of the operating systems,” he added.

“I attribute the 26% figure to the public being unaware of how much effort goes into securing and protecting against malware by Google and Apple. On an up-to-date, recent device released within the last three years, which has not been jailbroken intentionally, and does not get applications from places other than the official marketplaces (Google Play and Apple Store), there is absolutely no need to install any third-party security software.”

Imperva CTO, Terry Ray, claimed that the percentage of users that don't have security software installed is likely to be significantly higher than 26%, but that this isn’t a major issue.

“This isn’t overly critical yet, as there are only a small number of attack tools at the moment, and application stores are currently taking ownership of preventing user threats to these,” he argued.

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