Smart phone apps pose security risk

10 January 2011

The applications store and web browser on mobile phones are an easy route in for cyber criminals

Smartphone sales in the Middle East, particularly the GCC region are already above the world average. The high level of disposal income and a young population keen to keep up-to-date with the latest trends are driving the demand for new gadgets and new services.

While many protect their personal computers and laptops with security software and the telecoms regulatory bodies restricts what it deems to be malicious websites, the same rules are not being applied to mobile devices.  With the number of mobile broadband subscribers set to exceed fixed line broadband in the next two years, they will become a primary target for cyber criminals.

The biggest weakness lies in the applications. New services such as mobile-finance and mobile-health saturate these phones with personal information that is valuable to criminals. And the applications store and web browser on the device are an easy route in.

In order for applications to work, users must compromise personal information, including email addresses, exact location and bank details. So far more than 6.5 billion apps have been downloaded worldwide.

Blackberry is launching an Arabic version of its applications store and an increasing number of app-developers are localising their content to tap into markets such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE where downloads exceed 50 terabytes a day.

The main problem is that awareness is minimal and users expect service providers to ensure security. Yet rogue applications that attempt to steal personal data have appeared in these stores. As Google, Nokia, Blackberry attempt to bulk up their offerings to keep up with Apple, the vulnerabilities will multiply.

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