Home / Industry / Infotech /  Norton study finds consumers trade privacy for cool new mobile apps

New Delhi: Indian Consumers are trading privacy for new mobile apps, with nearly one in two Indians granting access to contacts and mobile data in exchange for free apps, while close to 40% have granted access to their camera. These are the findings according to the Norton Mobile Survey released on Tuesday in New Delhi. The 2016 survey commissioned by Norton by Symantec, the world’s largest security software provider, highlights that consumers in India are trading their personal information in exchange for free mobile apps, exposing themselves to privacy risks. “Our study also highlighted that the most concerning security issues for Indian mobile users were virus/malware attacks, followed by threats involving fraudulent access or misuse of credit card or bank account details, and hacking or leaking of personal information," said Ritesh Chopra, country manager, India, Norton by Symantec.

The survey aimed to understand consumer behaviour, usage and awareness of the risks that come along with mobile devices. The sample consisted of 1,005 Indian smartphone and tablet users aged 16 and above.

Mobile usage patterns of Indians

The Norton study reveals that two out of three Indians (65%) now access the internet more often on a mobile device than on a PC. In fact, the smartphone is usually the first and only device used for accessing the internet. Indian users also reported that they check their device an average of 41 times a day, highlighting the increased dependency and usage of the smart phone. While making calls continues to be the primary use of a smartphone, applications for internet browsing, communication and social media are at par. As many as 15% Indians reported their phone was stolen on the street.

Mobile security risks growing rapidly

About 34% of respondents said that virus/malware was the biggest security issue followed by threats involving fraudulent access or misuse of credit card or bank account details (21%) and hacking or leaking of personal information (19%). While four out of five (81%) consumers concede that security risks like malware, hacking and misuse of data and cyber stalking on mobile devices were just the same as if not more than those faced while using desktops/laptops, ironically a majority (nearly 60%) of them seem to be undermining the security of their devices by dismissing these risks as fairly minimal.

“In today’s connected world, mobile devices are more than mini computers in our pockets – they are digital warehouses storing our most personal moments and information, such as photos and videos, conversations with friends and family, health and fitness information, financial data and more," said Chopra. “Yet, most consumers unknowingly put personal information which resides on their mobile phones at risk and compromise their privacy."

Consumers are their worst enemies when it comes to mobile privacy

The Norton Mobile Survey reveals that close to 50% of Indians have over 20 apps on their smartphones or tablets. Over one in three consumers use apps that are likely to collect data about them, yet one in five say they would download any app that “looked cool", regardless of its origin or reputation. A shocking 36% would either always grant permissions or simply don’t know enough about the kind of permissions they may have granted. As many as 57% say they usually always grant permissions and have only ever refused any permissions on one or two occasions, while only 8% reject requests bearing in mind the risks involved. “In today’s connected world, mobile devices are more than mini computers in our pockets – they are digital warehouses storing our most personal moments and information, such as photos and videos, conversations with friends and family, health and fitness information, financial data and more," said Chopra. “Yet, most consumers unknowingly put personal information which resides on their mobile phones at risk and compromise their privacy."

Social networking (86%), and messaging/chat (78%) apps continue to dominate at the number one and two spot, followed by mobile wallet (62%), mobile banking (67%) and e-commerce (76%) forming the top five most commonly used apps. 48% people are “dependent" on some of their apps and 39% get excited every time they find a “cool new app." Over one in three consumers (38%) believe that most apps they use are likely to collect data about them and a minority of people are happy to source apps from non-official sources. 21% of users believe that only a very small proportion of apps will be collecting any personal data & that most apps don’t do this.

Permissions most commonly requested:

■ Nearly one in two Indians (47%) granted access to contacts and mobile data in exchange for free apps

■ 50% have granted permission to send promotional texts/emails

■ About 40% have granted permission to access their camera, bookmarks and browser history

■ About 30% granted permission to apps for tracking their geolocation.

Online Shopping and mWallets

The study found that e-commerce apps (76%) along with mobile banking (67%) and mobile wallets (62%), rank among the most popular apps, preceded only by social networking (86%) and messaging apps (78%).

Close to 50% of consumers accept that they shop online. While 68% of the users worry about the security threats of online shopping, 42% claim that they have, in fact, experienced a security problem, threat or nuisance as a result of using their devices for online shopping. Yet, only 26% of online shoppers believe that threats are increasing. Ironically, a whopping 50% believe that online risks are reducing. About 52% of users believe their mWallet has come under threat as a result of using other apps on their devices, especially social media apps which pose the greatest threat according to 27% respondents. This is not surprising as, on an average, the study found that users find it safe to hold over 19,000 across their mWallet accounts at any given time.

Norton provides some city specific data too. Within India, users in Delhi (71%) indulge more frequently in mobile banking than those in Mumbai (63%), the financial capital of India. Other findings reveal that respondents (one out of two) from Kolkata spent the maximum time (more than five hours a day) online followed by Chennai, Bangalore and Delhi.

Chennai ranked the highest when it came to downloading an app from “any website that offers a cool looking app" with one out of three respondent (29.4%) doing so, followed by Delhi, Kolkata and Hyderabad.

Respondents from metro cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore spent less on online shopping in comparison to cities such as Chennai, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. On an average, one out of two respondents in the three cities preferred online shopping as compared to brick and mortar shops.

Experiencing security problems and nuisance like spam, cyberstalking and virus attacks was common and the most common nuisances that consumers complained of were spam/junk texts and annoying pop up and ads. Worryingly, the same proportion also mentioned that they had experienced virus/malware on their devices. The victims also felt that these problems had taken them up to an average of over 24 hours to resolve.

“As consumers in India increasingly turn to smartphones and tablets to provide them with access to information and digital experiences, they need to pause and take stock of how they may be compromising their security and privacy in return. Real mobile freedom starts with basic best practices like keeping the mobile software updated, being aware of app permissions, checking the reputation of the apps we download among others," added Chopra.

Norton recommends best practices

■ Use Strong Passwords and Lock Screen patterns: Lock screen security is important, as it makes it more or less impossible for a thief to access your information. If a simple swipe is all it takes to unlock your tablet or smartphone, you’re leaving your information very vulnerable in the event of theft. Also, use different passwords for different apps and change them often.

■ Be Vigilant: Being aware of SMS phishing scams is another essential measure. It’s not just emails you have to watch out for these days—phishing scams come in the form of text messages as well. Remember to trust your instincts; if a message seems suspicious, it probably is.

■ Review Settings and Updates Regularly: Keeping your phone or tablet’s software updated is important, as is the case with your computer. If your mobile device isn’t regularly updated, it’s vulnerable to threats. You’ll also want to review your security settings on your device and make adjustments as needed.

■ Download Apps From Official App Stores: Third-party app stores may not put apps through the same rigour as official app stores such as the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store.

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