AT&T Inc plans to launch a wireless security srvice for consumers next year to help combat a big rise in cyber attacks on mobile devices, a top executive said.
As more people use smartphones like Apple Inc's iPhone and Google Inc's Android-based devices to download Web applications, John Stankey, the head of AT&T's enterprise business, said he had seen a big spike in security attacks on cellphones.
"Hackers always go to where there's a base of people to attack," Stankey said in an interview ahead of the Reuters Technology Media and Telecommunications Summit.
Gareth Maclachlan, COO of AdaptiveMobile, a mobile security company that provides network-based security solutions, also acknowledges this threat.
"AT&T, along with other global operators, is acknowledging the growing consumer awareness of mobile security threats. As the number of smart devices continues to grow, consumer trust in their mobile services is an important factor in safeguarding customer satisfaction, and with it revenues for the carrier,” Maclachlan said.
“Whilst many of the threats must continue to be dealt with at a network level, AdaptiveMobile is also seeing a growing trend in "personalized security solutions" for both enterprise and consumers. End users are becoming increasingly aware of the growing number of security threats and considering in investing in solutions to help them protect both themselves, their businesses and families against them."
AT&T already sells security services to businesses, helping them protect their workers' cellphones. But it has yet to offer consumer services such as anti-virus software as it has had a tough time trying to sell them.
"I do believe it'll become as relevant in the mobile space as it is today in the desktop," he said, referring to subscription anti-virus software services currently available for PCs. "You'll see that occur in the wireless world."
Stankey said AT&T would probably launch such services in 2012.
Consumers have been reluctant to pay for these services as most feel there is little risk.
"When you start asking them what's your willingness to pay for a solution, if they're not a little frightened, their willingness to pay is nothing," Stankey said. "It'll take a little time for this in the mass market."
But the reluctance to pay will probably change in the coming year as consumers become more aware of security threats, he said.