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By 26 June 2012 | Categories: news

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According to Kaspersky Lab, all that precious data sitting in one’s mobile devices could quite easily fall into the hands of cybercriminals, and the culprit is that tempting free Wi-Fi that users take advantage of.

That’s the alarming conclusion reached by Kaspersky Lab experts, based on research carried out by Harris Interactive in February-March 2012, which was aimed at understanding customer attitudes towards modern technologies and security threats. To this end, almost 9000 consumers from the US, Europe and Russia were surveyed, revealing some disturbing facts about user habits.

Startling survey

According to the survey, about 70% of tablet owners and 53% of mobile phone users use free public Wi-Fi hotspots to go online. This emerged as one of the most popular ways to access the internet, along with cellular networks, which are used by 58% of those surveyed for data communication.

However, the company warned that many users are unaware of the dangers of free Wi-Fi networks, and oblivious to the fact that data transferred across the link can easily be intercepted by cybercriminals.

According to the survey, banking details and a wide range of login credentials are considered to have the most impact on user well-being if they are lost or stolen. Almost two thirds of users considered this type of information to be the most sensitive.

Following them are e-mail messages, personal documents, address book, personal photos and videos.

Unsafely stored, easily stolen

The company further warned that, while a significant number of consumers store the most crucial data, such as banking details, on their smartphones and tablets, and taking into account the low usage of security suites and the growth of threats for mobile devices, the most sensitive data was frequently being stored on devices with the worst protection.

According to Kaspersky, this is particularly alarming, given that interception of sensitive financial data is the biggest source of concern for about 60% of users. The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that mobile devices are generally less protected from unauthorised access than desktop or notebook computers.

“We are experiencing device usage growth like we’ve never seen before – and the impact on networks is profound and permanent,” commented Michael Fletcher, sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa.

“As a result, many users are looking for easy and accessible Wi-Fi access to support their own smart devices – and in many cases, in the rush to connect, they forget about the security implications. Neglecting this area in today’s day and age is not acceptable,” he added.

The survey revealed that security solutions are installed on less than half of all tablets and barely a quarter of mobile phones/smartphones (28%), despite the availability of mobile security solutions to protect both the device and the data stored on it. This is in poor contrast to the 82% of users who have antivirus software installed on their home PCs and notebooks.

Additionally, the survey found that surprisingly, although tablets are designed to be mobile, they are most often used to access the internet from home (49% of users) or the office (39%).

The company stressed that, while work networks usually have a better level of protection and use an encryption protocol to ensure security of the data transferred, this does not mean other security measures to protect mobile devices can be neglected. 

To the point

“Fundamentally there is a converse relationship between security and convenience — and in the case of WLAN security; convenience translates into IT management resources in addition to end user time and effort. Finding a balance between the right level of security is critical for control, productivity and most importantly peace of mind,” concluded Fletcher.
 
In other words, you may want to think twice before taking advantage of that freely available Wi-Fi in that coffee shop, particularly if you don’t have some software protection on your mobile device.

In recent news, Kaspersky revealed that it believed the developers of the infamous Stuxnet and Flame were connected, and were believed to have cooperated at least once.  

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