Mobile Apps Are Putting Indians’ Privacy At Risk: Norton Study

by CXOtoday News Desk    Jun 29, 2016

Mobile Security Nearly one in two Indians have granted access to contacts and mobile data in exchange for free apps and close to 40 percent have granted access to their camera, revealed global leader in cyber security Norton by Symantec on Tuesday. Norton by Symantec released the India findings from the Norton Mobile Survey that sheds light on the security gaps and the privacy risks smartphone and mobile applications (apps) present. It highlights that consumers in India are trading their personal information in exchange for free mobile apps, exposing themselves to privacy risks.

The Norton study reveals that two out of three Indians (65 per cent) now access the internet more often on a mobile device than on a PC. In fact, the smartphone is often the first and only device used for accessing the internet. Highlighting the increased dependency and usage, respondents reported that they check their device an average of 41 times a day. While making calls continue to be the primary use of a smartphone, applications for internet browsing, communication and social media are just as important.

Mobile security risks are growing rapidly. Globally, out of the 10.8 million apps analysed by Symantec’s Norton Mobile Insights in 2015, almost 3.3 million were classified as malware, a 230 per cent increase from 2014. The Norton Mobile Survey shows that the most concerning security issues for Indian mobile users were virus/malware attacks (34 per cent), followed by threats involving fraudulent access or misuse of credit card or bank account details (21 per cent) and hacking or leaking of personal information (19 per cent). 

While four out of five (81 per cent) consumers concede that security risks like malware, hacking and misuse of data, cyber stalking etc. on mobile devices were just as great, if not greater than those faced while using desktops/laptops, ironically a majority (nearly 60 per cent) of them seem to be undermining the security of their devices by dismissing these risks as fairly minimal.

“In today’s connected world, mobile devices are more than mini computers in our pockets – they are digital warehouses storing our most personal moments and information, such as photos and videos, conversations with friends and family, health and fitness information, financial data and more,” said Ritesh Chopra, Country Manager, India, Norton by Symantec. “Yet, most consumers unknowingly put personal information which resides on their mobile phones at risk and compromise their privacy.”

Also Read: 78% of Indians Consider Dangers Of Unsafe Online Search Terms: Study

According to the study, consumers are Their Own Worst Enemies When It Comes to Mobile Privacy. The Norton Mobile Survey also reveals that close to 50 per cent of Indians have over 20 apps on their smartphones or tablets. Over one in three consumers accept than many apps they use are likely to collect data about them, yet one in five say they would download any app that “looked cool”, regardless of its origin or reputation. 

A shocking 36 per cent would either always grant permissions or simply don’t know enough about the kind of permissions they may have granted. Only eight per cent reject requests bearing in mind the risks involved.  

Mobile devices are increasingly important to how we shop and pay – both online and in-store. Not surprising that e-commerce apps (76 per cent) along with mobile banking (67 per cent) and mobile wallets (62 percent), rank amongst most popular apps, preceded only by social networking (86 per cent) and messaging apps (78 per cent).

Close to 50 per cent of consumers accept that they shop online more than ever before. While 68 per cent of the users worry about the security threats of online shopping,42 per cent say they have in fact experienced a security problem, threat or nuisance as a result of using their devices for online shopping. Yet, only 26 per cent of online shoppers believe that threats are increasing. Ironically, a whopping 50 per cent believe that online risks are reducing.

Interestingly, within India, users in Delhi (71 per cent) indulge more frequently in mobile banking than those in Mumbai (63 per cent), the financial capital of India. 

Experiencing security problems and nuisance like spam, cyberstalking, virus attacks and so on was by no means uncommon. Perhaps not unexpectedly, the most common nuisances that consumers complained of were junk texts and annoying pop up ads etc. (mentioned by over one in three). Worryingly, the same proportion also mentioned that they had experienced virus/malware on their devices. The victims also felt that these problems had taken up an average of over 24 hours to resolve.

“As consumers in India increasingly turn to smartphones and tablets to provide them with access to information and digital experiences, they need to pause and take stock of how they may be compromising their security and privacy in return. Real mobile freedom starts with basic best practices like keeping the mobile software updated, being aware of app permissions, checking the reputation of the apps we download among others,” added Chopra.

As mobile security and privacy risks evolve, there are many steps consumers can take to protect themselves. As a starting point, Norton recommends the following best practices:

· Use Strong Passwords and Lock Screen patterns: Lock screen security is important, as it makes it more or less impossible for a thief to access your information. If a simple swipe is all it takes to unlock your tablet or smartphone, you’re leaving your information very vulnerable in the event of theft. Also, use different passwords for different apps and change them often.

· Be Vigilant: Being aware of SMS phishing scams is another essential measure. It’s not just emails you have to watch out for these days—phishing scams come in the form of text messages as well. Remember to trust your instincts; if a message seems suspicious, it probably is.