Preventing Mobile Cyberthreats

CTIA_TWA_K_BIGInfo Sharing, Consumer Action Keys 

There are now more wireless subscriptions in the United States than people, tens of millions of mobile applications are downloaded everyday, and more and more American industries are deploying wireless solutions and apps to optimize their operations. Still, the U.S. has one of the lowest device infection rates in the world, and compared to many others our applications stores are bastions of lock -tight security. So, what’s the worry?

At the risk of sounding ‘the sky is falling’ alarms, mobile cybersecurity experts in the U.S. are concerned that a combination of federal law prohibiting them from sharing information about potential cyber risks and consumer indifference are threatening the relatively secure mobile landscape. However, legislation and education can go a long way toward shoring up the gaps.

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Providing superior cybersecurity for American consumers is complex. Among the many complicating factors is the diversity of the wireless ecosystem that produces the innovative products and services that has the U.S. leading the world in wireless. As detailed in a white paper produced by the CTIA Cybersecurity Working Group (CWSG), that system is comprised of a wide cast of players, including; consumers, mobile network operators, device and chipset manufacturers, applications stores, operating systems vendors, networks, service system, support software vendors, value added service providers, and network equipment manufacturers. They are independently spending billions of dollars every year to protect network infrastructure and consumers, and must work in conjunction with each other to ensure appropriate mobile hygiene.

A major impediment to that from the industry perspective is the federal government’s prohibition on information sharing. It is currently against the law for companies to communicate with each other about various threats or risks they’ve detected, or the measures they’ve taken to protect their consumers and operations. CTIA supports the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), co-authored by Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers (R-MI-8) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD-2) and recently passed in impressive bipartisan fashion by the House. CISPA creates a voluntary information sharing framework and is now being considered in the Senate.

Consumer use and activity is another side of the cybersecurity equation. In a national survey recently conducted by Harris Interactive for CTIA, 85% of consumers know their mobile devices are very or somewhat vulnerable, 74% say keeping their devices secure is their responsibility, yet many don’t take steps to do so. The survey also shows consumers are much more likely to be aware of and protect themselves against a tangible threat, such as having their device stolen, than an intangible threat such as hacking or malware. A white paper recently released by the CTIA CSWG highlights numerous tools, such as passwords, PINS, encryption, and parental controls, that can be used to increase security and data protection,

CTIA offers consumers a list of basic preventive measures they can take to keep their devices from being infected and their service compromised. Fortunately, the Georgia Tech Information Security Center reports the U.S. device infection rate to be less than 1%, compared to rates as high as 40% in countries such as Russia and China where industry is less vigilant and committed than in the U.S. However, to ensure our high standing in providing consumers and the enterprise with world-class cybersecurity, it is imperative for the Senate to pass CISPA and the federal government to work collaboratively with the private sector going forward.

(Learn more about the CTIA CSWG and mobile cybersecurity)

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