RealTime IT News

Smartphone Users Surf Sans Security

Smartphone users say security isn't a critical concern, with a recent survey finding that the majority of smartphone users are more concerned about losing their phone or personal data.

That's in spite of acknowledging the wealth of threats -- ranging from phishing scams to viruses -- that could impact them.

According to a survey conducted by security software firm Trend Micro, 44 percent of mobile phone owners said they believed surfing the Web on a smartphone is just as safe, if not safer, than doing so on their PC.

The report, which polled 1,000 smartphone owners 18 years and older, also found that for smartphone users, losing a phone or contact information and personal data is more alarming to them than infections or phishing schemes.

Furthermore, only 23 percent of smartphone owners use security software already installed on their smartphones, with one out of five respondents saying they don't think installing security software on their phones would be very effective since they feel there's limited risk in smartphone surfing.

That's somewhat grim news for firms like Trend Micro, which are promoting their own mobile security software as a defense against mobile threats. Trend Micro, for instance, offers its Trend Smart Surfing application through the iPhone App Store.

Still, despite the survey's findings, most smartphone users are aware of the types of Web threats that could infect their smartphones, and almost half of respondents said they've experienced malware infections on their PCs.

Phishing is the most familiar threat recognized among smartphone users -- 80 percent of them know what it is, and 20 percent report having encountered a phishing scam.

Spam is another smartphone staple. Almost half of the respondents surveyed have received spam e-mails on their phones in the past three months; 17 percent said that the number of spam e-mails has increased. Half of those surveyed have opened e-mail attachments on their smartphone during the last month and nearly 40 percent have clicked on a URL link in an e-mail received on their phone.

The report also highlights the iPhone crowd as particularly vulnerable when it comes to Internet security.

"Web-browsing functionalities that make the iPhone so attractive to gadget lovers also make them more susceptible to Internet-related threats compared to other smartphone users," Trend Micro said, pointing to a recently patched security flaw in the iPhone's SMS handling.

"The most recently reported iPhone SMS vulnerability, if unpatched, for example, could allow hackers to extract personal information and take control of the device if a user is on a malicious Web site or an unsecured 3G or Wi-Fi connection," Trend Micro said.

Smartphone use trends

In addition to examining smartphone users' security habits, the Trend Micro survey also looked at mobile Web usage patterns.

The report found that more than 50 percent of smartphone users are surfing the Web at least 30 minutes a week. Of these users, 12 percent are spending more than 120 minutes per week on the mobile Internet.

Smartphone users are also frequently visiting search engine Web sites, while other activity differs along gender lines. The study found that male smartphone users are significantly more likely to visit news/sports Web sites and women are more likely to visit social networking sites.

iPhone users are more likely to visit audio/video-sharing sites, shopping, blogs and social networking sites from their smartphone.

Besides answering calls and making calls, 49 percent of all smartphone users text message, while almost as many e-mail (48 percent) and use their contacts/address book (45 percent) every day. One-third of respondents surf the Web everyday from their smartphone, with close to two-thirds of that figure (63 percent) surfing the Web at least several times a week.