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BYOD Cyber-Security. How concerned should you be?

According to ComputerWeekly.com, “Nearly half of firms supporting BYOD report data breaches.” PWC’s 2013 Information Security Breaches Survey said “9% of large organisations had a security or data breach in the last year involving smartphones or tablets.” But as you know, correlation is not causation, and those quotes may imply a greater danger from BYOD than has yet been observed.

One of the most authoritative and exhaustive analyses of cyber security is Verizon’s annual “Data Breach Investigations Report.” The 2013 edition of the report analyzes over 47,000 ‘security incidents,’ including 621 ‘data breaches.’ It says:

The “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) trend is a current topic of debate and planning in many organizations. Unfortunately, we don’t have much hard evidence to offer from our breach data. We saw only one breach involving personally-owned devices in 2011 and a couple more in 2012.

So if your main concern is corporate data breach, the situation is not yet as dire on the mobile side as it is on the non-mobile side. But the Verizon report cautions:

Obviously mobile malware is a legitimate concern. Nevertheless, data breaches involving mobile devices in the breach event chain are still uncommon in the types of cases Verizon and our DBIR partners investigate. However, we do expect them to make more of an appearance in our data as mobile payment systems continue to become more common.

Two reports that focus on mobile malware are Trend Micro’s “Mobile Threat and Security Roundup,” and one I mentioned in a previous post, BlueCoat’s “2013 Mobile Malware Report.”

According to Trend:

In 2012, we detected 350,000 malicious and high-risk Android app samples, showing a significant increase from the 1,000 samples seen in 2011. It took less than three years for malicious and high-risk Android apps to reach this number—a feat that took Windows malware 14 years.

Just as Windows malware varied, so did Android malware—around
605 new malicious families were detected in 2012. Premium service abusers, which charge users for sending text messages to a premium- rate number, comprised the top mobile threat type, with transactions typically costing users US$9.99 a month. And victims of mobile threats didn’t just lose money, they also lost their privacy. The issue of data leakage continued to grow as more ad networks accessed and gathered personal information via aggressive adware.

Aggressive adware in mobile devices are now similar to the notorious spyware, adware, and click-fraud malware rampant in the early days of the PC malware era. They, like PC malware, generate profit by selling user data. PC malware took advantage of loopholes in legitimate ads and affiliate networks, while today’s aggressive adware can cause data leakages that aren’t always limited to malicious apps. Even popular and legitimate apps can disclose data.

The BlueCoat report concurs with this assessment:

Mobile threats are still largely mischiefware – they have not yet broken the device’s security model but are instead more focused on for-pay texting scams or stealing personal information.

So mobile malware is exploding, but so far targeting individuals in relatively trivial thefts. The Trend report observes that mobile threats are recapitulating the history of computer threats, but faster. Expect to see the mobile device threat level increase.

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