Recent advances in mobile technology have allowed millions to stay connected like never before through smart phones, tablets and cell phones. This is more than evident by the fact that global mobile data traffic increased 26 times from 2009 to 2010, nearly tripling for the third year in a row.

However, the success of the 3G technology has also brought to the fore concerns about security and privacy. Last week, U.S. lawmakers invited Apple and Google to attend a hearing on privacy scheduled for next month. This follows claims that the location-tracking of iPhone and Android devices violated the privacy of owners.

The Cisco 2010 Annual Security Report states that most scammers have begun shifting their focus away from the Windows-based PCs to other operating systems and platforms, including smart phones, tablet computers and mobile platforms. The report says that in response to the last decade of cyber-exploits targeting PC operating systems, PC platform and application vendors have shored up security in their products and have taken a more aggressive approach to patching vulnerabilities. This has prompted scammers to shift to trolling third-party mobile applications.

Bhaskar Ramamurthi, Professor, Centre for Excellence in Wireless Technology, IIT-Madras, says it is not easy to tap the old order phones, but in Internet-based services, the communication is carried out by packets that are directed by routers, and hence it is easier to tap them. “It is better to start with the assumption that transmitted data can be intercepted, hence has to be encrypted suitably.”

Observing that enterprises now have to support more devices than ever before and, in effect, extend their corporate firewalls and services to places for which they may not be prepared, McAfee Labs presents an interesting report on the increasing number of threats to mobile devices. The report reveals that criminals can target any mobile platform they desire, including Symbian OS, Java 2 Mobile Edition, Symbian S60 3rdEdition, Python, and Android. The Symbian OS (used in Nokia smartphones), it points out, is the most popular platform for mobile malware developers.

Solutions for the enterprise and the consumer in the mobile industry are being provided to tackle security concerns, says Anand Patil, Vice-President, Systems Engineering, Cisco Systems India. On the enterprise side, secure connectivity and encryption to protect against data loss and identity is the key, and for customers, it is the web security and malware threat that is taken care of, he adds.

“Service providers provide standard security applications but if they can provide customised applications that can cater to different security requirements, it will be a major step towards overcoming the concern,” says Dr. Ramamurthi. “As of now, your security is as good as your encryption module.”