Supplying mobile security has become a red-hot sector of the tech industry as more people make cellphones an integral part of their daily lives.
Morgan Stanley’s principal analyst Mary Meeker predicted the mobile Internet era is coming. The number of mobile devices will grow explosively in the next decade. Smartphones sales will exceed PC sales in 2012, the investment bank said.
“Mobile users want to use their devices in any location and to get access to any application,” said Scott Stevens, vice-president of the technology department at US-based company Juniper Networks Inc.
However, threats to mobile devices are now a reality. The Android platform – a popular but very open mobile operating system developed by Google Inc for smartphones – has suffered several attacks from hostile software in the form of viruses, worms and Trojan horses.
The number of Android-targeted malware has quadrupled since summer 2010, according to a report issued by Juniper Networks Inc.
About 72 per cent of respondents had shared or accessed sensitive information such as banking, credit card and medical records through their mobile devices. That raised the seriousness of losing information-packed mobile devices or getting them hacked, the report said.
“Waiting and reacting after-the-fact can be costly,” said Stevens. Hackers, or network attackers, used to target governments and large companies in order to attract attention. However, they are now more interested in making profits from stealing critical personal information, he added.
Juniper’s survey found that more than half of users are very concerned about loss, theft and identity theft resulting from their mobile usage, which has created business opportunities for worldwide mobile security companies.
“Asia-Pacific will experience stronger growth (in the security software market) because of the pace of technological advances in the region and the growing level of security awareness,” said Graham Titterington, principal analyst at Ovum, an independent technology research company.
The Asia-Pacific security software market will reach revenues of US$4 billion in 2015, a compound annual growth rate of 10 per cent from the $2.49 billion it hit in 2010, predicts Ovum. Revenues from the global security software market will reach $23.3 billion at the end of 2015.
Global spending on mobile security is expected to be $1.9 billion by 2015, up from $407 million in 2010, according to research firm IDC.
“China could be one of the markets that present the biggest growth chance, since the country has the largest mobile population and more people intend to choose a smartphone,” said Stevens at Juniper.
Henry Lin, chief executive officer of Beijing-based NetQin Mobile Inc, China’s biggest mobile security company by market share, said the much richer mobile applications and functions require increased security on portable devices.
“The smartphone is likely to be the most important device in people’s daily lives. It entertains us, assists us at work, takes care of our financial portfolios, not to mention the basic functions such as helping us to communicate,” Lin said.
Mobile versatility enables multiple channels for mobile attacks. Handsets are “uniquely more sensitive than computers” since “the device is with you all the time,” said Sun Peilin, analyst at Beijing-based research firm Analysys International.
Founded in 2005, NetQin was the first Chinese mobile Internet company to list overseas. It began to trade on the New York Stock Exchange in the United States in May 2011 and had more than 100 million registered users worldwide by June.
“The growth rate of NetQin went beyond expectations. However, I expect even greater development opportunities will appear over the next few years,” Lin said at the 2011 World Economic Forum in Dalian in September.
Traditional computer anti-virus companies are moving to cash in. In addition to global big names such as Symantec and McAfee, Chinese companies have also stepped up efforts to provide mobile security services.
Beijing Rising Technology Co Ltd, a leading computer security software company in China, launched its first mobile security software for Android and Symbian phones in mid-September.
“Our software is free for customers because it is more important to set up our brand in the new mobile field,” said Zhang Yumu, vice-president of Beijing Rising. He said moving into mobile Internet is a critical strategy for Rising. The company will offer more mobile software in the future.