Soft targets rising

Sheila Moorcroft, Research Director

Last spotted
27 April 2011

Security remains a critical but often ignored issue for consumers. As the range of interaction with our surroundings, levels of mobile or game device activity and services in the cloud grow so the potential for becoming soft targets grows. With the smart home and the internet of things just around the corner, the threat is getting serious.
What is changing?
Sony has, this week, announced a significant security breach of its Playstation Network resulting in the gaming network, used by 75 million players the world over, and Qriocity Sony’s music service being out of action. Emails, logins, possibly credit card details may all have been compromised.Cloud computing is growing rapidly in consumer and corporate fields. A combination of cost cutting, desire for constant access and use of smart phones are all increasing the range, type and amount of data stored online, in the cloud. 40% of Fortune 500 companies have indicated that they will more ~15% of software into the cloud soon. Amazon has added its trusted and familiar name to the growing list of cloud providers with it music service.A major survey of mobile phone security indicated consumers’ double standards. 4 out of 10 say security is a top issue; but 7 out of 10 store sensitive personal data such as health or bank details on their phones with no additional security. The same survey indicated a 250% increase in malware and viruses on phones in the last year.

Why is this important?

Soft targets for hackers, cyber crime and identity theft are growing on every side.Smart phones are spreading fast. Consumers and small businesses around the world are using them for an ever increasing range of applications. A total of 10 billion phones, many of them smart phones will be in use by 2013. Phone loss and phone theft are commonplace, providing easy access to data. Many experts regard a massive security breach as a disaster waiting to happen.More and more other things are going smart and connected. Internet TV + TV apps are growing; car apps are already popular and growing; smart meters help consumers track energy use. The smart home and the internet of things are just around the corner as appliance manufacturers cease producing ‘dumb’ appliances and concentrate on those that can be connected and interrogated. All of these will present a growing range of soft targets unless we are very careful.

Augmented reality marketing and interacting with window displays are spreading; checking in and shopping deals while out shopping are becoming part of everyday life – and an open door to identity theft. (See AR Marketing and Mobile Retailing Trends linked above)

Companies are encouraging employees to use their own devices for work purposes; 59% do so already, but unofficially apparently. A compromised phone therefore becomes not just a personal risk, but a business risk. Spyware, which monitors and capitalises on device activity, is the biggest threat: some 60% of infected phones are infected by spyware according to an international survey.

Apple recently announced its 10 billionth app download. Increasingly, popular apps are being hacked hijacked, and then pirated – including an embedded piece of malware, probably spyware. The popularity and ease of using apps, plus a desire to get things for free make them an easy target.

Convenience and fun, familiarity and frequency of use make us less aware of the security threats around us – from mobile phones and apps to gaming. As the internet of things grows and smart everything arrives, security and privacy will become ever more critical. We will all potentially be very soft targets unless we change our ways, device manufacturers make devices more secure and companies are more stringent in their own mobile and laptop strategies. (See also Trend alerts on Cyberwars go industrial and Boom time in cybercrime linked above)


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