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New Zealanders more aware of mobile device challenges

NetSafe’s Smartphone Security Research for 2014 shows New Zealanders are increasingly aware of mobile device challenges

Auckland, 29 May 2014

NetSafe has today published research on Kiwi attitudes to smartphone security with data showing some positive trends as more individuals and businesses take advantage of mobile devices.

With warnings this week about cyber criminals targeting iPhones and iPads via compromised Apple IDs, the report provides some timely advice for new smartphone owners who may not yet be fully aware of digital device challenges.

NetSafe’s Digital Project Manager, Chris Hails, believes responses to the latest online survey show how the increasing use of mobile internet access has changed attitudes since the organisation last surveyed smartphone owners in 2011.

“Three years ago it was estimated that only around one in ten New Zealanders owned a smartphone – latest research suggests this figure has risen to almost two out of three. This means a majority of Kiwis are now carrying around a small but powerful computer in their pocket that allows them to stay connected to their online lives 24/7.”

Key findings from the report

- 62% of New Zealand residents who responded to the survey used their smartphone to bank online with dedicated banking apps five times more popular than using a website.

- 64% had completed a purchase using their device, buying from websites, winning online auctions, purchasing in-app credits or paying for music or other digital downloads.

- One in five smartphones were provided by an employer with almost three quarters of companies now having policies and procedures in place to advise staff on the use and security of their phone.

“The most significant risk for smartphone owners is the physical loss of the device. With the average owner inputting a wealth of personal or business data into their phone, losing their handset can be an expensive and problematic experience. It also potentially offers access to friends and family contacts, your social networking services and work or personal email accounts,” said Hails.

Surprisingly, 75% of those surveyed believed that there was nothing sensitive stored on their smartphone - a figure that Hails disputed. “This finding seems to suggest that many owners do not fully comprehend the volume of valuable data that may be stored on their smartphone. Increasingly these devices are our digital concierge – they help us message friends and family, do our banking,
buy things online, remember our passwords and let us take photos and videos. If someone were to get access to all the information on our smartphone they could learn a lot about us.”

One in four Kiwis responding to NetSafe’s survey admitted to having previously lost a phone and an expensive handset can also be a prized target for thieves.

“In 2011, around two thirds of people were locking their smartphone with a PIN or swipe pattern.

We were pleased to see that number had risen to almost 9 out of ten Kiwis using a lockscreen to protect their device and data in this year’s survey.”

Mobile malware and other threats

Malicious software has been a threat on desktop computers for many years and anti-virus companies have repeatedly warned smartphone owners to protect their devices.

Four percent of survey respondents told NetSafe that they had experienced a computer virus style issue on their phone although the organisation has only taken one report to date of an older Android handset being reset to factory settings via a browser-based exploit.

“Mobile malware is often talked about as a growing threat as more and more of us rely on smartphones to stay connected,” said Hails. “The majority of survey respondents mentioned problems with free game apps or intrusive advertising – we have yet to see widespread reports of mobile malware affecting New Zealanders.”

Twenty five percent of survey respondents were now using anti-virus software on their phone, with more than half of Android owners – where the malware threat is perceived to be most serious – using security software as an additional line of defence.

The full Smartphone Security Report can be downloaded from the NetSafe website at http://smartphones.netsafe.org.nz and has additional information on the use of free Wi-Fi, awareness of security tools that allow owners to track, trace, lock or wipe a lost phone and guidance on taking a cautious approach to downloading and installing apps.

- ENDS -

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