Smartphone Owners Concerned About Mobile Security but Lack Education: Survey

By Nathan Eddy  |  Print this article Print

Almost all phone users (95 percent) said they believe that at least one entity can track their location while their phone is on.

A survey of smartphone-owning consumers conducted in December 2011 by NQ Mobile, a provider of consumer-centric mobile security and productivity applications, and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), a nonprofit public-private partnership focused on cyber-security awareness and education, indicates that while almost three-fourths of American consumers are aware of—and concerned about—security threats to their smartphones, they aren't always taking active measures to protect their mobile lives.

When it comes to specific security threats, every potential threat evoked concern, but 78 percent of smartphone users are particularly concerned about their lost or stolen phone falling into the wrong hands and its contents being misused. Users were most concerned about losing their password data (67 percent concerned), but would be most willing to add security to protect the banking and other financial data on their phone. Users are least willing to add security to protect their photos and videos.

Almost all phone users (95 percent) said they believe that at least one entity can track their location while their phone is on, though which entities users believe can do this varies widely. A strong majority (87 percent) believe that carriers can track their location when their phone is on, followed by hackers (57 percent) and legitimate apps (54 percent). Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of respondents believe that data aggregators can track their location.

People are especially concerned about the personal information they keep on their phones, with nine out of 10 aware that smartphones contain personal information, and 81 percent concerned about that fact. Interestingly, men tend to be more aware of the security threats and issues related to owning a smartphone, but women tend to be more concerned about threats and privacy issues.

On the emerging issue of location data tracking, users are about evenly split on being concerned about protecting the privacy of their location when using their phones. Half report that they know how to turn off or set permissions for location tracking, though just 38 percent know how to disable geotagging, which is the storage of location-based data, in the form of Latitude and Longitude inside of images.

While 70 percent of smartphone users said they had some type of security or security software on their phone, just half of smartphone users actually could identify what type of security they have. More than half (58 percent) of smartphone users report they don't know enough about mobile security to decide whether they need it or not, and a majority of those who do not have any security features/software on their smartphones don't have them because of a lack of awareness or complacency—and this is not surprising, given that just 7 percent of smartphone users were offered information about the need for security for their phone at the time of purchase.

"It's clear that smartphone users take protecting their data and privacy seriously, but they don't feel they know enough about how to keep their mobile devices safe," said NQ Mobile co-CEO Omar Khan. "As the leader in helping people secure their mobile lives, NQ Mobile believes there is an obligation for the entire mobile industry to ensure that consumers understand that real threats exist and how they can protect their personal information and privacy."