Mobile Monday Munich: Mobile Security and the Smartphone

The interesting presentations and discussions of yesterday’s Mobile Monday in Munich on “Mobile Striptease: Your Mobile under Attack: Privacy & Security” definitely need a follow-up.

Yesterday already started with some interesting insights into mobile security with the report  in the New York Times on security measures companies implement when employees travel to China or Russia. These measures include leaving mobile phone and laptop at home and using dedicated devices, not using WiFi or Bluetooth, removing batteries from phones while in negotiations etc. All in fear of electronic espionage on or via mobile devices.

In parallel in a recent survey among 150 leaders in the industry on “biggest mobile stories in 2012” the topic “Security and Privacy” made it only to 6th place, with roughly 23%. Although in the “what was most newsworthy in mobile in 2011” it came out last with only 2%.

Now on the Mobile Monday we had great presentations and demos, most notably by MobileIron, on Mobile Device Management and Mobile Security. The focus of all presentations, however, was on corporate customers and how to protect corporate data and intellectual property.

On the other hand there are all the stories floating around of making the smartphone the single device for payments by integrating credit cards and bank accounts into a mobile wallet, e.g. square card case. With NFC smartphones are also assumed to eventually replace the key for access control.

With all these information stored on the smartphone, loosing such a device becomes a real nightmare. But following the electronic spy story at the beginning, hacking into mobile phones and stealing information might be an even bigger threat.

While it might be true that people realize the loss of their phone earlier than the loss of the wallet or keyring, when credit card or access credentials are electronically stolen from a device the user might not notice this at all.

While focusing Mobile Device Management solutions on corporate customers might make perfect sense at the moment, there is definitely an opportunity there for offering private mobile phone protection. And mobile operators are definitely in a position to leverage their customer relationship here.

The only major challenge, besides the issue of how to make this easy to use across different scenarios, is around marketing. In order to sell security solutions you need to paint a clear picture of the threat, while painting it too vividly might actually shy people away from using the smartphone for such applications.

So add Mobile Security and Privacy on my list of key topics to watch for 2012.

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