Research being presented at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona later this month will highlight the importance of trust to mobile operators. It will warn that current and future mobile services are at risk should the currency of operator trust be damaged.
Commissioned by the security experts at mobile network software company Mobileum, the research – carried out by three different analyst teams – highlights the beginnings of a perfect storm centred on trust as governments and regulators around the world consider enforcing new measures on telecoms operators; and enterprise users and consumer customers begin to place more value on their personal data and the privacy of their mobile handsets.
However, the research also revealed a lack of coherent strategies to position and actively discuss network or Smartphone security among network operators. In contrast, there is mounting evidence of a clear demand from the users not only for protection of their data and their devices, but also for greater information and reassurance from the operator community.
“We asked three different analysts to look at the issue of network security and trust,” says Mobileum’s SVP, Security Business, Stephen Buck. “One looked at what governments and regulators around the world were doing, another at the attitudes of consumer and business users, while the last surveyed the operator landscape to see how security and protection was being positioned both online and in discussions.
“When we analysed the results, it soon became clear that the regulators are beginning to take action; that the users – consumers and businesses alike – want to hear about and see action; but that security remains a topic operators are usually reluctant to raise – despite an underlying belief that it could protect revenues and reduce churn in the long run.”
Buck feels this reluctance to promote new initiatives to protect the security of networks and handsets is in many ways understandable. “It’s not easy to talk about it without raising questions about what was happening before,” he says.
However, Buck believes that as technology gives the mobile handset an increasingly pivotal role in banking, payments, identity management and authentication, promoting trust in the handset, and in the network, becomes mission-critical for the operator business model.
“Trust is one of the operator’s most important currencies. It is a significant factor in brand loyalty,” says Buck.
“The trusted operator will keep customers onside and be trusted to deliver premium digital services,” he explains. “Any operator that is shown to fall short of the expected standards risks significant churn in the event of a security breach. The operator’s ability to recover trust will then depend on whether it knew about the vulnerability or risk in advance, and also how the security breach was dealt with once it happened”.
The paper says that the industry should actually welcome this governmental interest. It suggests that in the absence of a security threat that poses a clear risk, investment in security is often deferred, and that security advice from industry associations is non-binding. Clear evidence and guidance from a national cyber-security agency, or a regulator representing the government, is often a lot more persuasive, the paper concludes.