Study finds UK users are amongst worst with smartphone security

7th February 2013

Computer giant Microsoft (in co-operation with TNS Global) has conducted a global study involving twenty countries – including elements on smartphone security issues and how much smartphone users in respective countries know about them.

For UK users in particular, the results are damning.  Microsoft places the UK in the bottom five of the twenty countries surveyed as part of their overall study on global Internet safety.  10,000 participants were asked questions including some regarding the level of security they use on their smartphone devices.

Only 29% of UK smartphone owners use a PIN code or have another form of security to protect their device.  22% say they avoid connecting to unprotected WI-FI hotspots.  This compares to a global average of 34% who use a PIN or other method to protect their device; and 28% avoiding using open WI-FI hotspots.

The study, which was released in conjunction with Safer Internet Day, involved consumers from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Russia, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the United States.

Whilst the UK ranked below fifteen other countries out of the twenty – including the US, Canada, Australia and China – it did rank above more tech-savvy countries (some also with bigger economies), such as Germany, South Korea, and Japan.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Microsoft chief online security officer Jacqueline Beauchere, said: “Mobile devices often have just as much, if not more, valuable personal information stored on them as a home computer, making mobile devices equally attractive to data-stealing criminals.”

Globally, 45% of participants said that they were worried about identity theft – something that is made far easier by failing to protect yourself online and on your mobile device.  Only 47% thought that the theft of passwords or account information was a concern.

When comparing the UK to culturally similar countries, the study shows that over half of Australians took proactive steps regarding Internet safety, whilst only 19% of US citizens did the same.  The UK came out worse than both of these countries.

In a world where personal information being available online is an ever-increasing occurrence, it seems that the UK is lagging behind in educating technology consumers about how to stay safe.  Cyber crime attacks have become more and more frequent in recent years, and it may be time for the UK government to take direct action before it’s too late.