3 Keys to Protecting Our Nation’s Communications Infrastructure

The wireless industry has a strong legacy of security and today offers a wealth of alternatives from password protections to sophisticated encryption schemes and protections to mitigate malware and spam. This issue is something that has been in the news recently, and I wanted to highlight three key points.

One: The wireless ecosystem has grown. When the wireless industry started in 1984, there were the networks and the device manufacturers. People made voice calls; that was all. When the mobile ecosystem was simpler, the “inevitable problems” of information security (i.e. cybersecurity meaning protection from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, perusal, inspection, recording or destruction) were much easier for the industry to address.

Today, the number of players in the ecosystem has grown dramatically to include operating systems (e.g. Android, iOS, Windows, Symbian, BlackBerry), OEMs, application stores and application/content developers (including web applications). Yet while there is a plethora of choices for consumers, the more open and diverse mobile industry means cybersecurity is more challenging.

Two: Our members, throughout the wireless ecosystem, are doing everything they can to protect their infrastructure and their customers, but consumers must take some simple steps to protect themselves too. According to a recent survey from Mobilisafe, 56% of iOS (Apple) devices were running outdated firmware. A similar statistic was highlighted for Windows and Android operating systems. As we’ve learned from the PC industry, software updates that address vulnerabilities are critical to good “cybersecurity hygiene.” By simply applying firmware updates, consumers can dramatically reduce their exposure to known vulnerabilities. Beyond firmware updates, consumers should use passwords to lock their devices and antivirus software to protect their mobile devices.

Three: While our members are doing everything they can to protect their infrastructure, they also need to be able to communicate with their competitors, federal government agencies, academia and experts to identify potential issues and create solutions BEFORE there is a problem. That’s why we, along with a number of other tech companies and associations, support CISPA. This bill was already passed by the House of Representatives and we need the Senate to move quickly.

We don’t have time to waste because the hacker community is moving fast. According to a report from Juniper Networks Mobile Threat Center, 8,608 new mobile malware samples were found from January-March 2012. The report states that this is a 30 percent increase of all known malware. In addition, there is rapid growth in spyware designed to steal sensitive personal, financial and work information from mobile devices. In fact, Juniper says the total number of spyware samples more than doubled in the first quarter of 2012 alone. In order to counterbalance the growing threat the ecosystem players must work collaboratively to stem the rising tide.

As Americans continue to rely on wireless as their sole or primary means for communications, everyone has a responsibility and a role to play to protecting our information, our devices and our networks. Our members are trying to do the right thing by asking Congress to allow them to work together, along with other experts and the government, so potential issues and solutions may be developed faster than the hackers can create them.

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