Mobile shopping on the rise, security measures lacking

Krystal Peak · November 17, 2011 · Short URL:

Consumers are using their phones like their computers, except for the safety software

As the holiday season rapidly approaches and people start thinking about what to get loved ones, the growing dependance on our smartphones will play a bigger role than ever on our shopping behavior.

From browsing for stores, researching products and finally making the purchases, our phones will be with us all the way. But how safe and secure will these transactions be?

A survey by the National Cyber Security Alliance and McAfee released Thursday is giving insight to our shopping practices from mobile devices.

Now, half of Americans have researched a potential purchase via their smartphone -- which has resulted in 27% of people shopping and 18% going through an buying physical items over their phone.

This shift to considering your phone as a small computer with all the same features and capabilities is a great sign for retailers but a risky bet for shoppers because most people install firewalls and security software for their computer but 72% of mobile shoppers admitted that they have no security software on their phones.

McAfee researchers estimate that the number of new mobile malware in 2010 increased by 46% in that year and is expected to affect 5% of devices in the net 1-2 years.

That may not seem like a staggering number, but with 23% of users including banking applications to their phone and more than a one in four shopping on their phones, this could lead to serious risks for identity theft.

"Users on all devices can run into threats from online criminals," Todd Gebhart, co-president of McAfee, said in a statement. "Online shoppers are being cautious with their purchase behavior, but cyber threats have also grown more sophisticated and widespread than ever before. Mobile threats are growing exponentially, and this new survey illustrates the need for consumers to protect all of their devices—including smartphones and tablets."

This doesn't mean that all shoppers on mobile devices aren't aware of risks, since 42% of them have stopped a purchase on a website because of a safety concern they detected either because they though the website was unsecured or because it requested more information than they thought would be necessary for the transaction.

“These findings illustrate our ever-increasing reliance on mobile technology in our daily lives. Technology has enabled us to enhance our shopping experience with the ability to research pricing, reviews, and product purchase options with ease not previously possible,” Michael Kaiser, Executive Director of the National Cyber Security Alliance said, in the release. “With this new convenience comes a new responsibility to practice vigilance this shopping season. People must be aware of the risks they face when making purchases online and ensure that they are using sound judgment to protect their personal information and prevent the loss of data.”

McAfee and the National Cyber Security Alliance both suggest updating your security and web browsing software as often as possible and create strong passwords for accounts you access over your mobile device -- no more password1.  

Be conscious of the address that you are being directed to and look for https:// or shttps:// which denotes added security. And remember that free wi-fi can come with a price -- cybercriminals can access your machine when you are sharing a connection online -- so don't do any transactions on public connections.


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