Mobile security: a non-sequitur?

Forrester Research, the technology and market research company has put out a report on hot mobile trends for the year. Having been on the money with their prediction of Google's Android ending up as a viable rival platform for 2010 it is worth taking note of one of their top predictions for this year: "Lower prices will drive mainstream adoption of smartphones – but new users are likely to be less engaged and active than iPhone or Android early adopters. But even the newer crop of smartphone users will consume more mobile media than ever before and show incremental usage of mobile data."

That mobile smart phone usage is on a vertiginous growth track is pretty well documented with some sources listing the Japanese as the most (75.2%) connected (browsed or accessed content) followed by the US at 43.7%.  A growing number across countries used mobile for quotidian activities like gaining access to personal bank accounts (9.4% in the US) as well as discretionary expenditures like travel (4.7% in the US).  An astonishing 22% of Japanese users watched TV on their mobile devices, a stat that probably has profound implications for a variety of industries including hospitality. In the US it stands at a relatively anemic 4.8% probably due to the US consumers' preference for size and clarity but that could change as connectivity to larger screens becomes routine.

In the hospitality sphere, Hilton Hotels recently reported that the use of mobile devices in their hotels is "skyrocketing" with the company referring to smart phones as "super-phones". More particularly, a hotel situated in Stockholm, Sweden created quite a splash in the hotel and technology world when it introduced in-room locks that can be opened with a guest's mobile device.The locks combine "near-field communication technology" provided by Nordic telecom giant Teliasonea in conjunction with custom locks by Swedish lock-maker Assa Abloy.  Guests at the hotel never need to stop by at the front-desk either to check-in or check-out.

The escalating use of mobile underscores the importance of  another noteworthy prediction for 2011 by Forrester. That "Social location services will attract growing audiences but face continuing privacy issues because of the difficulty engaging with customers in contexts that are innately personal and intimate." 

Forrester's observation on privacy prompts the obvious question as to whether mobile devices are more susceptible to a range of security issues from hacking to misuse by unintended users when accidentally left behind. The need for a greater emphasis on mobile security is evident from a number of recent security lapses including Google's Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system where the flaw exposes "the microSD card and applications directory on Android 2.3 handsets.  By clicking on a link, malicious code on a website could access the data on a microSD card including voicemail, photos, and other saved data." A senior UK politician complained of just such a hacking incident (although not on an Android phone).

At the cutting edge  Mobile World Congress starting on Valentine's Day in Barcelona there expectedly is a rich stack of issues on agenda for mobile technology. Ranging from mobile broadband to mobile TV and new payment systems. However, the agenda is surprisingly lacking on security issues in the mobile world. 

Organizations too seem to be treating mobile security more as an afterthought with very few specifiying operating systems that employees can work with. Unlike other enterprise systems, mobile-phone technology is limiting when it comes to employing biometrics but that can be overcome via call-validation with a PIN to the mobile phone. Mobile security ought to be front and center as the dollars associated with it grow across industries attracting nefarious attempts by people looking to purloining a slice of that pie for themselves.



Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.