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Should Asia be App-rehensive?

Kayvan Alikihani, Senior Director of Technology, RSA | July 15, 2014
We are indirectly setting ourselves up for security breaches because of our reliance on mobile phones and from the way we have been using them.

For its readiness to adopt new technologies and diversity in applications, Asia is fast gaining reputation as a technology frontier. Countries like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore's smart device penetration and fast Internet speed are major contributing factors to this growth. Respective governments across Asia are also investing to improve their network infrastructure, which will boost connectivity and mobility for its people. In fact, the region is set to account for almost 50% of all LTE connections by 2017 with major rollouts in countries like China and India[1].

The acceleration of mobile technology in Asia has made it easier for users to incorporate the use of their mobile devices in their daily lives.  Many of us are already familiar with mobile apps that allow us to socialize, communicate, pay our bills and shop etc. This has resulted in Asia accounting for 41 percent[2] of global app revenue last year, making it the most lucrative market for mobile apps globally.

There is no denying that mobile apps have made our lives more productive, especially by keeping everyone connected at their own convenience and timing.  However many users are unaware that attacks against mobile apps and devices are fast gaining dominance. This negligence and lack of information is also why mobile phone users are at least three times[3] more likely to become victims of phishing attacks than desktop users.

We are indirectly setting ourselves up for security breaches because of our reliance on mobile phones and from the way we have been using them. Many of us take the user friendliness of mobile devices for granted by downloading apps without any prior research on the developer, overlooking the legitimacy of a website because it's viewed on a smaller screen or entering credentials without checking the source. The simplicity of the interface is no doubt appealing but they also make easy targets for attackers to replicate.

Another issue contributing to the increase in mobile security risk lies in the limited security control on the apps, which leads to malware on mobile devices. The fact that 40%3 of smartphone users enter their passwords into their phones at least once a day, and most apps do not require authentication and authorization procedures, which increase the risk of data loss when a device is stolen or lost is also an added concern. The issue is increasingly pressing for Asia since the region leads in business-to-consumer (B2C) app usage globally across industries like banking and ecommerce, which deal with the use of sensitive data and financial transactions.

Apart from personal security risks, the increasing BYOD (bring your own device) trend also signifies that more individuals are using their personal mobile devices to access their organizations' resources. This puts the organization at risk as mobile security threats such as identity theft, unauthorized access to data, altered data, or denial of service can be introduced unknowingly into their systems. While it is encouraging to see companies taking a more proactive stand towards setting policies and processes to integrate security into employee's mobile accessibility, the reality remains that control is limited. Organizations are also faced with the dilemma to strike a balance and not infringe their employees' privacy. 


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