May 28, 2008

Security For Mobile Devices Still a Slow Market

Smartphones such as Research in Motion Ltd's BlackBerry and Apple Inc's iPhone have been steadily increasing, but the market for software to protect mobile devices such as smartphones has yet to take off.

Enrique Salem, Symantec Corp's Chief Operating Officer, estimates that it is currently worth a few hundred million dollars a year.

Salem said it is growing, but given the number of handsets, the number of smartphones, you would think it would be growing at a much higher rate. "I can't give you an exact number but it is not as fast as you might think."

Symantec isn't the only company that sells security products for mobile devices. McAfee Inc also sells them and has a few more in the works.

"Certainly we see opportunity there," McAfee CEO Dave DeWalt said.

Mike Haro, senior analyst with Sophos, the largest privately held security software maker, said for now, security on mobile devices is seen as an extra feature on programs designed to fight malicious software on personal computers and laptops.

But he believes that is starting to change. "Customers are beginning to look at what their strategy is for smartphones," said Haro.

Currently, Japan offers some of the more sophisticated security products for mobile devices, where carriers like NTT DoCoMo Inc offer security software that customers can download onto their phones. Salem said the software comes with a monthly subscription fee.

DeWalt said they are starting to see more and more of that type of strategy being deployed. "It is another service for them that they can make money off of, as well as important protection to the device itself."

Some experts believe the reason for the slow growth is that a dominant platform has yet to emerge for mobile devices"”making them less attractive to hackers, who don't want to bother worrying about developing technology to break into multiple systems.

"If you're a bad guy looking to make money off of somebody, you want to spend the least amount of effort to do that. The quickest path to riches is usually the fast one," said Andrew Jaquith, a security analyst with The Yankee Group.

You're most likely to lose important data on your phone by losing it rather than it getting hit by a hacker.

"If we're talking security on smartphones, we are talking about encryption, or we are talking about remote wipe," Jaquith said.

Mark Rasch, managing director for technology at FTI Consulting, says his firm's clients are increasingly asking whether they should be worried about mobile phone security.

Rasch tells them they should be worried about risks associated with loss of the devices, rather than the prospects of a rogue hacker breaking in.

He says mobile encryption and remote wiping software are necessary to keep those devices safe and are effective in doing so when the right products are used. Rasch spent 25 years as an attorney prosecuting computer crimes for the U.S. Department of Justice before moving to FTI.

"You can have extraordinarily secure mobile communications," he said.


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