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Channel capitalising on cyber security?

The increasing awareness of cyber security issues and low awareness of smartphone security are creating an opportunity for resellers to create new business and become ‘community centres for cyber security’ according to a visiting American internet safety expert.

Marian Merritt, Norton Internet Safety Advocate, says New Zealand retailers are the perfect environment for in-store events promoting security, showing consumers how to activate built in security options on iPhones, and potentially up-selling.

Merritt, who is also on the US Family Online Safety Institute Board and authored Norton’s Family Online Safety Guide, was in New Zealand this week.

She says there’s still a very low awareness of the need for security on mobile devices. But she says the growing trends of BYOD and mobility mean consumers do need advice and assistance on security.

“People are becoming more aware of the risks,” she says. And while not many viruses are being written specifically for smartphones – yet – she says loosing the phone can be just as catastrophic, with private details, including social networking, potentially exposed.

“It’s more about anti-theft security – being able to track the phone remotely, lock it down or wipe if need be.” While iPhone has some features available free, Merritt says users don’t necessarily know how to activate them, while Android users need additional software.

Merritt says there’s a ‘good story’ for resellers to tell, and it offers the chance for those selling mobile devices to make attached sales.

She says studies show 40% of mobile phone owners in ANZ have lost their mobile phone. “It’s almost inevitable.”

A Symantec smartphone ‘honeystick’ project, which saw 50 smartphones – all with tracking devices – deliberately ‘lost’ in cities across the US and Canada, showed 50% of finders tried to return them. That’s the good news. The bad? “Nearly 100% of the phones were rifled through first.”

And, Merritt says, while there’s an argument that finders would try checking the phone to find out the owners details, that wasn’t quite the case. “We had files like payroll, bank log-in, photos... those were all checked.”

Beyond smartphones, she says ‘routers can be a parent’s best friend’ – but not many parents know that, leaving the door open for education and up-selling.

“Retailers have an opportunity to become a community centre for cyber security,” she says. And while she notes that many may not have staff with the necessary skills on hand, she says they could partner with NGOs for the events.