US phone users least likely to switch after security breach

Globally, 47 percent of consumers would switch their mobile phone carrier in the event of a security breach

Globally, 47 percent of consumers would switch their mobile phone carrier in the event of a security breach, up 7 percent from last year, but only 29 percent of Americans would do the same, according to a new Nokia survey of more than 20,000 customers.

Mexico ranked the highest, at 73 percent.

Part of the reason for the difference is that customers have different attitudes toward the relationship between them, their phones, and their carriers.

"In some markets, people think that they own the device, and the operator is just the connection," said Giuseppe Targia, vice president of the security and IoT business unit at Nokia Group.

This is similar to how customers in some countries think about their Internet service provider, he added.

Few people would blame their cable company if their computer got a virus.

In other markets, however, the mobile phone is an extension of their phone service.

In addition, some mobile markets are more dangerous than others.

"The number of malware that we detect in the mobile space in the transitional markets and the emerging markets, is higher than in the mature markets," Targia said.

In addition, customers were more likely to use unofficial app stores in emerging markets, which are more likely to have malicious applications.

"In a rich country, the motivation to go outside the legal app store is lower," he said.

Overall, 91 percent of global consumers are worried about at least one security issue.

However, that doesn't mean that they make purchase decisions based on security.

Out of a list of reasons for choosing their mobile phone carrier, security ranked dead last, with only 9 percent selecting it as a main reason.

By comparison, price led the list at 45 percent, followed by network coverage, what family and friends were using, customer care, latest technology, and choice of mobile devices.

This is not good news for mobile security, where slow updates by carriers and manufacturers have been a long-standing problem.

"Security is always a compromise between the money you want to spend to secure the user, and the damage that you will suffer if you don't secure the user," said Targia. "All operators are aware that there is a problem. The issue is whether they can make a business out of it. And if they can't make a business out of it, what will they lose if they don't protect the user?"

One exception is with enterprise customers, he added, who are more likely to consider security when they make their buying decisions.

Another factor that might cause carriers to upgrade their security is government regulation, he said.

In addition to upgrading and patching faster, there are other things that carriers can do to improve security.

For example, Targia said, they can scan for malware and filter the traffic.

"Having a clean pipe reduces the infection rate, but does not completely prevent it," he said.

Carriers can also do more to detect infected machines, isolate them, and clean them up, he added.

And there is one financial upside to better security. In some markets, consumers are willing to pay extra for better protection, he said.

For example, 40 percent of consumers in transitional markets said they would be willing to pay a 5 percent premium. Meanwhile, 28 percent of consumers in mature markets were willing to do the same.

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