CSOs' security burden to grow as Asia-Pacific leads mobile, Wi-Fi explosion through 2018

CSOs concerned about the pace of mobile technology adoption and its security implications will find little solace in the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast for 2013 to 2018, which has presaged an exploding IT-security threat as machine-to-machine (M2M) and other devices push the number of connections to more than 10 billion by 2018.

Mobile traffic volumes in the Asia-Pacific region will grow by 67 per cent annually through 2018 to increase 13 times over today's levels, the report predicted, putting it well ahead of North America and Western Europe, which will each see 50 per cent annual growth.

Usage of cloud services by mobile-wielding users will grow 12-fold by 2018, representing 64 percent CAGR. Between 2017 and 2018, Cisco's VNI warns, the amount of traffic that mobile users will generate per month – 5.1 exabytes – is over three times the total traffic volumes of the entire mobile Internet in 2013.

With both Android and iOS presenting their share of security issues and most customers unwilling to pay for mobile security tools, despite ever-smarter mobile malware now intercepting phone calls and recruiting mobile devices into global botnets.

Such rampant growth in mobile usage not only strengthens the need for CSOs to get on top of mobile device management (MDM) strategies and policies, but highlights the growing security exposure from conventional mobile usage, mobile cloud usage and emerging technologies such as M2M and wearable technologies, which present both new opportunities and new threats.

Cisco has been vocal about the opportunities side of that picture: "Global mobile data traffic will continue its truly remarkable growth, increasing nearly 11-fold over the next five years, to reach an amount in 2018 that is more than 57 times the total amount of mobile data traffic just a few years ago in 2010," vice president of products and solutions marketing Doug Webster said in a statement.

"Such growth is not only indicative of mobility becoming a critical characteristic of almost every network experience and the value consumers and businesses alike place on it, but it also represents the immense opportunities ahead for service providers who sit at the centre of the Internet of Everything."

Those opportunities will, however, increase the pressure on CSOs as the nature and volume of mobile traffic increases the likelihood of mobiles being used as a vector for security attacks.

For example, the steep rise in usage of 4G mobiles will present its own security issues, with recent research from Alcatel-Lucent suggesting that 4G mobiles were the most likely type of mobile to be infected with malware.

By 2018, the Cisco VNI figures suggest, 4G mobile traffic will increase 18-fold and generate 51 per cent of total mobile traffic, equivalent to 8 exabytes per month – compared with 448 petabytes per month last year.

Yet the total threat posed by increasing mobile usage isn't only an issue of mobiles: an increasing trend towards WiFi-based mobile offload – which shunts mobile devices onto public or private Wi-Fi connections to reduce overall loads on mobile networks – will see 52 per cent of global mobile traffic pushed to WiFi networks, up from 45 percent of traffic last year.

That significant volume will see more mobile traffic traversing Wi-Fi networks than mobile networks, Cisco warns – forcing CSOs to ensure that their mobile-protection regimes are up to scratch both on their own networks, and outside of them.

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