Study: Mobile Application Security One Of Top Concerns For Organizations

According to a new study commissioned by Entrust Inc., many of today's mobile applications have limited functionality from a lack of overall security. And for mobile applications that feature transaction-based capabilities, the requirement for security is even greater, highlighting a key area of concern for deploying organizations.

Regardless of industry, organizations, retailers and financial institutions are using dedicated mobile applications -- whether Web-based or installed on a device -- to streamline transactions, build stronger customer relationships and enable new capabilities and services. Entrust's survey, "Security's Role in Deploying Transaction-Enabled Mobile Applications," suggests that more and more organizations are developing or considering the use of mobile applications if security, cost and ease-of-use requirements can be properly balanced.

"While the use of mobile applications continues to gain momentum, most still lack the same functionality as traditional Web-based services and offerings," said Entrust president and CEO Bill Conner. "One of the primary reasons for limiting their access stem from concerns about security. Strong authentication is a key element to properly securing any mobile application -- an important step to move us past the norm of weak usernames and passwords."

The Ziff Davis study found that application security was a top concern, regardless of whether or not the organization had deployed any transactional mobile applications in the past. Specifically, more than 50 percent of organizations that had not deployed such applications ranked it as one of their top three concerns, and more than 40 percent of those that had deployed these applications continued to rank it as a key concern.

From an adoption standpoint, the survey discovered that nearly 80 percent of organizations offer online transactions via their Web site. Many of these organizations, however, do not yet offer this same capability to mobile users. Those that do, only 31 percent of the online services and capabilities are available via the mobile platform.

Per the study, "Organizations clearly recognize the perceptions around security, and the potential impact with users. Fifty percent of those that have already deployed transactional mobile applications factor the security message very prominently in the messaging around their products and services."

A secure mobile application can also be leveraged to help circumvent today's biggest malware threats, including man-in-the-browser attacks. By properly layering security, secure mobile applications can be reinforced as true transaction-based platforms that equal the functionality of their traditional PC-based Web counterparts.

"There's a clear opportunity for organizations to offer secure, convenient mobile applications to their customers -- if properly supported with security from a vendor that is trusted in the security market and has proven solutions in a variety of spaces," said Conner. "Further, on-device security applications can now be used to help prevent malware from defrauding users, including man-in-the-browser attacks which are successfully targeting today's organizations and financial institutions."

Innovative security vendors may also offer financial institutions a dedicated mobile security application that allows the user to confirm details from online transactions out-of-band and generate a corresponding one-time passcode (OTP). This approach helps alleviate one of the weakest online authentication practices in use today (username and password) and addresses one of the biggest threats: man-in-the-browser attacks.

Drilling deeper, specific security-related concerns were top of mind for organizations. These ranged from data encryption and protection, authentication, and the weakness of mobile device security features, to more general concerns such as the disregard for security issues by users.

The Entrust survey was carried out by Ziff Davis in conjunction with The Strategy Group. Data was collected from December 2009 to January 2010 via a random sampling of IT buyers with firms that employed more than 100 personnel.


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