Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

AVG Technologies, the leading providers of consumer security software, today revealed details of a sobering study uncovering new statistics about the data security risks involved in everyday smartphone use. The findings are the result of a recent study conducted by the Ponemon Institute in concert with AVG of 734 random US consumers over the age of 18 regarding their mobile communications behaviour. Full survey results are available in an AVG white paper at:

The study confirmed AVG’s concerns about consumers’ indifference to the many serious security risks associated with the storage and transmission of sensitive personal data on iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices.

Following are four of the most alarming:

  • 89 percent of respondents were unaware that smartphone applications can transmit confidential payment information such as credit card details without the user’s knowledge or consent.

  • 91 percent 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, yet nearly a third (29 percent) report already storing credit and debit card information on their devices and 35 percent report storing “confidential” work related documents as well.

  • 56 percent of respondents did not know that failing to properly log off from a social network app could allow an imposter to post malicious details or change personal settings without their knowledge. Of those aware, 37 percent were unsure whether or not their profiles had already been manipulated.

  • 28 percent of respondents were unaware that using their smartphone for business and pleasure puts confidential business information at risk. Of those who did know, 12 percent were unsure whether sensitive business data was already exposed.

Other Smartphone security dangers include geo-tracking based on location data embedded onto image files; the transmission of confidential payment information without the user’s knowledge or consent; and unauthorised (and often unnoticed) premium-service orders on the monthly bill.

Dr Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, said, "The findings of this study signal what could be an overlooked security risk for organisations created by employees' use of smartphones. 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.

“We have increasing responsibility to educate consumers on the dangers lurking in mobile broadband and to help users take ownership of their mobile data security,” said J.R. Smith, CEO, AVG Technologies. “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 concluded, “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.”

More than nine million Android user community members have installed AVG’s free mobile security application, ANTIVIRUSFree, on their handsets to date. Additionally, the company believes that this number will continue to grow as more consumers are made aware of mobile security risks and the simple steps that can be taken to prevent attacks from occurring.

AVG ANTIVIRUSFree enables users to scan, identify and remove viruses, check apps for malware before downloading from app stores and check website content, emails and SMS before downloading data or content. If a device protected with ANTIVIRUSFree is lost or stolen, it can be locked and wiped to protect valuable data, and located quickly using GPS functionality.

AVG (AU/NZ) has a comprehensive range of security tips on its web site.

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