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Aussie mobile users most vulnerable to security threats

Australia has the highest percentage of mobile app threats detected on a per-device basis, with iPhone users more likely to download a risky app than an Android user, study finds

Australian smartphone users have been found to be the most susceptible to mobile app threats, based on an analysis of devices and apps around the world by mobile security specialist Lookout.

According to the Lookout app threats map, Australia topped the world with the highest percentage of mobile app threats detected (26.9%) on a per-device basis, with iPhone users significantly more likely to download a risky application than an Android user.

The findings were derived from Lookout’s security graph, which analyses anonymous telemetry data from more than 200 million devices and 160 million apps.

The data covers the period from February 2021 to March 2022.

“Australians may have become complacent when it comes to downloading applications to their phones, at a time when risks are higher than ever,” said Don Tan, senior director of Asia-Pacific and Japan at Lookout.

“Across the nation, they’ve been using their phones to check in, order food and more – this common usage of phones has perhaps bred a complacency about the applications they’re downloading,” he said. “But they need to become more vigilant than ever.”

Tan noted that crimes targeting smartphone users can seem low-risk and invisible – “until we see Australia on a map, coloured in red, with the highest number of application threats compared with its global counterparts – that’s when it starts to become very real”.

Read more about cyber security in Australia

Amid growing mobile threats, Tan urged Australians to be more vigilant when downloading applications, or else this number will rise, and their financial details and other personal information will continue to fall into the hands of criminals.

“It’s important for people to check the links attached to anything they download, as well as the download count and customer reviews on the app store,” he said.

Further to Australia having the highest rate of mobile app threats in the world, Lookout’s analysis found the vast majority of these threats have come from iOS (30.1%) rather than Android (1.2%) devices.

Tan said this indicated a degree of security complacency among iOS users. “Apple does an outstanding job with mobile security, and because of this strong reputation, its users can often be lax with their own security practices,” he said.

“It’s dangerous to operate under the assumption that any device you use is completely safe, regardless of the manufacturer, and people need to apply the same security precautions to every device they use.”

Phil Hochmuth, programme vice-president for enterprise mobility and endpoint management at IDC, noted that as mobile becomes the primary end-user computing technology in the enterprise, security and risk teams must think more broadly and strategically about how to secure the usage of mobile devices, and the data, systems and resources these devices store and access.

“Mobile security is no longer a simple add-on technology to enterprise mobile device management architectures,” he said. “Businesses should think of every smartphone and tablet in their organisation as an extension of the company’s attack surface.”

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