Smartphone penetration is continuously on the rise across the globe as users have been won over by the convenience and efficiency of the flagship mobile device. After they were first introduced, smartphones have been breaking one barrier after another and have become an indispensable part of our daily lives. We rely on them for communicating with loved ones, catching up with our emails, making online purchases, and even playing games and watching movies on the go. Yet as our lives rely more and more on smartphones, hackers have caught wind of the immense opportunities for illicit profit that these mobile devices offer. So, how safe are we from a mobile cyber-attack?
The global smartphone market is set to rise
The numbers behind worldwide smartphone adoption are impressive – and what is even more astounding is its enormous potential for further growth. According to research published on Statista, smartphone penetration in the US in 2018 amounted to 80% and is set to grow to 90% by 2025. Meanwhile, 72% of the population in Europe were smartphone users in 2018, and they are set to reach 82% by 2025, while the same numbers rise to 65% and 79%, respectively, in Latin America. Sub-Saharan Africa lagged behind in usage, which amounted to 36% in 2018, but exhibits the greatest potential for growth as it is set to reach 66% by 2025. Similarly, the Middle East and North Africa are poised to grow from 52% in 2018 to a whopping 74% by 2025, while Asia Pacific will rise from 54% to 82% during this period.
Finally, smartphone penetration in the group of Russia and its surrounding post-Soviet republics amounted to 53% in 2018 and will climb to no less than 73% by 2025. This impressive estimate for growth showcases the importance of smartphones in the digital age. We use them for a wide variety of tasks, from simple ones like making phone calls or chatting to complicated and important ones such as web banking or health monitoring.
You will find more infographics at Statista
This means that our smartphones know a lot more about us than we might realize. From our personal details to our browsing activity and app usage, smartphones collect and process a vast amount of information – and precisely because we casually use them every day, this data is varied and very often very valuable. But while most people are aware of the dangers when using their computers, most of us don’t realize that data security is important when it comes to mobile devices, too. The first step in making sure that the volume of personal data that goes through your smartphone stays secure is to identify which processes collect your data and how someone could access it.
Secondly, it is important to understand what types of risk are associated with mobile usage. While the most prominent threat comes from cybercriminals, careless use is also a security issue as it can leave the user exposed and lead to data leaks, which hackers can then easily exploit.
Reported annual mobile malware attacks amount to 42 million
This low level of awareness is also in part a result of inadequate information on the part of manufacturers. Apple, for instance, has been boasting for years that the devices it produces, especially its iPhones, are totally secure, but that is not quite the case – and even the tech giant urges users to report any vulnerabilities they identify. It is true that smartphones were designed and built to be more secure than personal computers since they came about much later and developers were able to learn from the lessons that desktop security has offered. That is why there are rarely any instances of mobile hacking reported – but that does by no means translate to a complete absence of any danger. According to report no. G00341580, carried out by Gartner and published online on 30 October 2018, mobile security concerns are on the rise, and spending in mobile threat defense is also growing. In fact, the study has revealed that almost 20% of business and industry apps were found to expose personally identifiable data.
As per the same source, malware attack vectors that target mobile devices amount to 42 million on an annual basis, while a whopping 63% of grayware apps – those found to have undesirable or undisclosed but not outright illegitimate or harmful behavior – were found to leak their host device’s phone number. Meanwhile, 60% of enterprise respondents surveyed stated that they are convinced mobile malware attacks are underreported. This information comes amidst the latest worrying developments in the case of Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei – that was poised to be one of the industry’s leading brands. The brand has been accused of poor security practices with regard to its deployment of 5G networks and has been effectively banned across several countries, including the US. While the concerns do not directly relate to its smartphone development branch, some analysts worry that allegations that its lack of security could allow the Chinese government or other covert parties to eavesdrop could have a spillover effect. Although the company has pledged $2 billion to dealing with the issue, its critics remain unconvinced.
Currently, most users rarely employ best practices when it comes to mobile security, which leaves them vulnerable and exposed to hackers. But as the spotlight gradually turns to mobile security, we need to become more vigilant and invest in keeping our smartphones safe.