German consumers "underestimate" smartphone security threat

Deutsche Telekom, security, smartphones

German consumers are underestimating security threats linked to their smartphones, even as their fear of institutional cyber attacks is at an all-time high, Deutsche Telekom has found.

The operator’s 2016 Security Report, carried out by the Allensbach Institute and the Centre for Strategy and Higher Leadership, found that twice as many own smartphones as think them vulnerable to attack from cyber criminals.

Today, nearly two thirds of Germans have smartphones, and yet only a third believe their devices will be hacked.

The remainder are “underestimating the fact that smartphones are powerful pocket-sized computers and are increasingly subject to attacks,” said Deutsche Telekom.

At the same time, many are taking instinctive precautions against cyber crime: 83 percent don’t open attachments from unknown senders, 77 percent don’t download data from suspicious sources; around third make a habit of downloading system updates.

The report, in its sixth year, pointed to generational differences.

Older smartphone users are more likely to avoid returning calls to unknown numbers and to deactivate connectivity functions when not in use, said Deutsche Telekom.

They are also less inclined to download apps access sensitive services such as Wi-Fi and GPS.

At the same time, the report found younger users are more likely to update their operating systems regularly to close security gaps.

Overall, email encryption is relatively rare, and considered inconvenient in general.

More than half reckon cloud storage is inherently unsafe, particularly when held by US providers.

A third of users now store data in the cloud, however, with most opting for US firms.

Deutsche Telekom said the report finds it is, itself, more trusted with personal data than other companies in the telecoms and internet industries.

In general, the report said fear of cyber attacks is on the rise.

“Fear of terrorist attacks has now found its way into the cyber world. Two thirds of the population believe there is a great or very great risk that state bodies and critical infrastructure in Germany will fall victim to attacks over the Internet,” Deutsche Telekom said in a statement.

Deutsche Telekom launched a new security-focused business unit in April, which consolidates various of its other security departments and is tasked with developing products for both consumer and enterprise customers.

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