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Mobile Security Needed

Dec 13, 20113 mins
Mobile SecurityNetworked PlayersSecurity

Our exclusive survey reveals both Android and iOS consumers perceive a need for security software on their tablets and phones.

More Android owners see the need for security software than iOS owners, but more iOS owners are willing to pay for it. That’s one of the takeaways from a joint survey we conducted together with Jefferies. In our joint survey, we polled 1410 readers of PCWorld and Macworld to get a feel for their preferences and attitudes regarding security software on their Macs and PCs, as well as their iOS and Android devices.

According to our joint survey, 65 percent of respondents feel there’s a need for security software on their smartphones or tablets. When you break the numbers down according to mobile OS, though, it becomes clear that Android phone and tablet users overwhelming feel a more pressing need for protection than do iOS users.

For example, 84 percent of Android smartphone owners surveyed felt security software was a necessity, while iPhone owners were split down the middle. Among tablet owners, the story was much the same: 79 percent of Android tablet owners think they need security apps, but only 51 percent of iPad owners agreed with the sentiment.

These results seem to suggest that most Android users are aware of the risk of malware on smartphones. A recent study suggested that the amount of Android malware is growing rapidly, but it’s worth keeping in mind that although Android malware is growing quickly percentage-wise, Android malware remains fairly low in quantity compared to Windows malware.

The fact that a non-trivial number of iPhone and iPad users see the need for security software seems to suggest that they’re not living in fantasy-land, either. While the more locked-down nature of the App Store reduces the risk of iOS malware, it’s still possible that hidden malware can sneak past Apple’s app review panel. These results may also suggest that many iPhone and iPad owners are concerned about keeping their personal data safe in case their gadgets go missing, or are concerned about other threats like phishing.

An additional issue at play here is that, as far as we’ve seen, Apple has yet to allow mobile antivirus software on the App Store. Most of the security software on the App Store are Web browsers that flag malicious websites, threat information apps, and so forth.

Given that, we found it interesting that, of those surveyed, iOS users say that they are more willing to pay for security software than Android users. Overall, 57 percent of those polled said they would be willing to pay for security software for their phone or tablet. When you break the numbers down by device, 50 percent of Android smartphone owners and 56 percent of Android tablet owners say they’d buy mobile security software, while 69 percent of iPhone owners and 66 percent of iPad owners say they’d be willing to be pay for protection.

This struck us as a little counterintuitive, given the fact that fewer iOS users see the need for mobile security software. This could be due to the fact that Apple users may be more affluent, as suggested by other studies, but our data doesn’t provide any insight into this.

The one conclusive take-away from our data: Mobile users are increasingly savvy and aware of the potential vulnerability of their devices. And this is a good thing, since we expect to see malware incidents on mobile operating systems rise as more users shift their day-to-day activities from desktops to mobile devices.