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Mobile apps, the high security price of personalization

The most publicized mobility threats are not always the most prevalent.


Mobile apps, the high security price of personalization

mobile application management, mobile device management, privacy

The most publicized mobility threats are not always the most prevalent. While high-profile malware attacks raise awareness when it comes to intentionally malicious programs, mobile device security can be threatened by applications without malicious intentions. The issue of device data collection is one of those areas where the distinction between good practices and privacy violations isn't always clear.

The number of applications that collect data for advertising purposes is on the rise, according to a recent Reuters article. The increasing number of applications collecting data for advertising purposes is posing a significant privacy risk for users and organizations. More than 80 million apps that could pose such a risk have been downloaded, 5 percent of which are available free on Android.

"Aggressive ad networks are much more prevalent than malicious applications," Kevin Mahaffey, technology chief and co-founder at LookOut, told Reuters. "It is the most prevalent mobile privacy issue that exists."

Mobile application management to control access

A Science Daily article also discussed the issues of applications as they relate to user privacy. The article highlighted research performed by the University of California, which found 21 percent of apps forward the ID number of the phone, 4 percent forward the user's current position, and 0.5 percent copy the address book.

"My smartphone knows everything about me, starting with my name, my phone number, my e-mail address, my interests, up to my current location," said computer science professor at Saarland University Michael Backes, who was quoted in the article.

Not all applications are bad for privacy, though, and some can even lead to enhancing privacy. For example, the SRT AppGuard application can be used to assess and manage the access of any other installed app. Users hoping to ensure the privacy of their data can use similar security applications to manage the amount of data their third-party applications can collect. Businesses can use mobile application management (MAM) to control application usage and deploy security apps to employees.

Mobile device management: Essential to security in the mobile enterprise

Although invasive advertising is a growing threat, it's still important to protect against traditional threats. A recent Cult of Mac articled highlighted the risk faced in the event of a lost device. Many businesses are leveraging the bring-your-own-device movement by providing support for employee-owned devices. Fifty-nine percent of organizations make internal business applications available to personal devices, and 71 percent are considering an enterprise app store.

"Let’s be honest — users are controlling the IT security agenda, like it or not," said Network World's Sean Martin, who was quoted in the article. "They love their devices and the apps on them, and they want to use them at work. Clearly, vendors and enterprises alike have recognized this is more than a fad and are fueling the secondary driving force behind BYOD: the potential to make and/or save money by capitalizing on the movement."

Although 73 percent of businesses noted an efficiency increase directly related to embracing mobile technologies, businesses without the proper management tools face significant security risks. For example, a study found that 83 percent of devices were used to access company data after being lost.

The research highlights a need for robust mobile device management solutions that not only protect employee privacy, but the security of corporate data. MAM features such as access control and MDM features such as remote wiping are essential for protecting sensitive data and for avoiding compliance violations caused by data breaches.

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