Friday, September 23, 2005

Telcos jump into mobile security

Mobile security is on the agenda for most cell phone service providers around the world, even though customers aren't asking for it --yet. On the corporate side, the demand is already there. IT managers have understood the issue. But to the consumers, it's still more like pushing it.

It's December 2007 and you have just switched on your new mobile phone to find it has been sending thousands of unwanted photos to all your friends and colleagues, putting you in line for a $5,000 bill. Sound unlikely? Mobile phone providers want to keep it that way, and are starting to fit security software to subscribers' cell phones -- even though the threat from viruses and other rogue programs is still distant. "We wanted to be proactive.... It is still a clean field and we want to keep it that way," said Pasi Mehtonen, head of mobile services at Sonera, a Finnish unit of TeliaSonera AB, a leading Nordic telecommunications company.

Finland-based F-Secure, a mobile security firm, has won five of eight cell phone security deals that cell phone companies have announced, and it expects to generate profits from mobile business between 2006 and 2008, when it sees mobile security becoming mainstream. F-Secure has deals with Elisa, Sonera, Swisscom and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile unit in Germany. Orange, a unit of France Telecom, is piloting its service in Switzerland. U.S. security software maker McAfee Inc. said last month that it expects mobile-device security products to add fractionally to earnings next year and contribute more in 2007.

Research firm IDC believes the market for mobile security software will grow around 70% annually, from $70 million in 2003 to nearly $1 billion in 2008, as more people start to use e-mail and the Internet on their phones. The market for fighting viruses, worms and other malicious software on computers will still be as much as 10 times larger than the corresponding market for mobile devices, according to market research firm Research and Markets. But the number of cell phones sold is four times greater than the 200 million PCs sold annually.

Roughly 50 million advanced smart phones are already in use; smart phones provide mobile access to the Internet and e-mail. They account for only about 2% to 3% of all mobile phones in the world but are the fastest-growing part of the market, according to research firm Gartner inc., with annual sales expected to reach 200 million units in 2008.

Three out of four smart phones run on the Symbian operating system, making it the virus-writers' target of choice. Indeed, 81 out of the 83 mobile viruses so far recorded have targeted Symbian, according to F-Secure.

CATEGORIES: 1mobility, 1phones, 1telcos, 1research, 1idc,1threats
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