Mobile makers "should do more" to protect users as security threats rocket

Of all the product segments getting the IFA treatment here in Berlin, it is mobile that hogs most of the limelight as crowds flock to get their hands on the sleek devices flaunted by Samsung, Sony and the rest.

This consumer fervour is certainly a positive thing by and large; demonstrating an appetite for handheld gadgets that looks to sustain numerous areas of the technology sector for years to come. But there are serious security implications to the modern day mobile explosion, as more people spend more time online than ever before, putting their personal data on multiple new platforms for hackers to target.

That's why we caught up with Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab this morning, to discuss the public's susceptibility to growing mobile threats and the lack of support they are getting from hardware manufacturers to shore up potential problems.

With the smartphones and tablets they flaunt here at IFA, mobile companies are typically looking to seduce the widest spectrum of consumers possible, which means their devices end up in the hands of millions who are simply not aware of the security threats attacking handheld devices every day.

Kaspersky's B2C Product Marketing Manager Stefan Kremel told ITProPortal that while consumers' understanding of mobile security is beginning to improve, it is still significantly short of the appreciation of threats on PC, where he claimed 90 per cent of our computers are now covered by some sort of security software.

So should manufacturers be doing more to protect their customers? Perhaps offering better security features and highlighting the risks of using mobile devices online?

"They could do more, I would say," argued Kremel, before pointing to the lack of accessible tools that encourage users to secure their phone or tablet.

"Like we see in the PC world when they have [security] software pre-installed for the users that can be easily activated - that's a good way of doing it. And we [at Kaspersky] like to get in touch with the manufacturers and offer them a security solution." Indeed, the Russian vendor recently penned a deal with Qualcomm that will see its mobile and tablet security solutions pre-loaded on devices powered by the company's Snapdragon processors.

As explained by Kremel, the need to protect consumers is made glaringly apparent by current statistics on mobile threats.

"We have seen trends showing that the amount of malware pieces is exponentially rising," he said. "We've seen more than 100,000 different malware pieces now [this year], and that it is twice as much as we had last year and of course so much more than we had in the years before. The number is constantly growing."

Kremel says much of the problem lies with the basic principal of demand and supply, as mobile manufacturers will continue to leverage the most popular software platforms even if they are less secure. Companies simply "produce what the market wants or where they think the biggets market is, so nowadays many manufacturers of course use Android."

Google's Android OS is almost incessantly plagued with rogue apps, malware and backdoor exploits. In July, just one 'master key' vulnerability was said to threaten 99 per cent of Android devices - a staggering 900 million phones and tablets.

"Most people have had a virus on their PC at some time, but they have maybe not seen it on their mobile device," said Kremel, suggesting the covert nature of mobile malware makes consumers less aware of the dangers using phones and tablets online. "Nowadays there are so many app stores where you can download for free, and if you're giving something away for free you [the app producers] have to make some revenue somewhere - so by ads or perhaps spreading viruses."

These certainly aren't the only words of wisdom we've heard at IFA 2013 this week, so check out our live coverage page to see what else has being on, including those all important product launches.