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Smartphone Users Blissfully Unaware of Security Risks

A small survery of smartphone users sponsored by security software provider AVG shows most consumers don't consider their device vulnerable to attack.

Consumers use their smartphones for all the same things as a personal computer: to send and receive personal and business email, to shop, view documents, browse the web, make calls and text messages, to bank, and to store or move data. But they don't generally consider their smartphone to carry the same security risk as their desktop or laptop computer.

In a survey of more than 700 U.S. adults using iPhones, BlackBerrys and Android devices, research group Ponemon Institute found that 89 percent of respondents didn't know their smartphone was capable of transmitting payment information without their knowledge or consent, while 91 percent didn't know financial apps could become infected with malware capable of logging data and stealing information. Meanwhile, 65 percent of respondents were more concerned about security on their laptop or desktop computer, and more than half don't worry about a hacker attacking their phone.

"The findings of this study signal what could be an overlooked security risk for organizations created by employees' use of smartphones," said Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of Ponemon Institute. "Because consumers in our study report that they often use smartphones interchangeably for business and personal, organizations should make sure their security policies include guidelines for the appropriate use of smartphones that are used for company purposes."

The study, sponsored by security software maker AVG, also found that 28 percent of smartphone users didn't know using their phone for business or personal email could put their information at risk.

"We have increasing responsibility to educate consumers on the dangers lurking in mobile broadband and to help users take ownership of their mobile data security," said J.R. Smith, CEO, AVG Technologies. "The mobile internet does not have to be a risky environment, though the industry must work together to encourage users to take action by downloading low-cost or free anti-virus products specifically designed to protect mobile data."

Some 57 percent of respondents didn't consider mobile phone security software important. More than half -- 51 percent -- neither use keypad locks or passwords to secure their device.

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