The recent hack on Sony has been good news for at least one industry: cybersecurity. The sector gets a bump in attention whenever there is a leak of this magnitude. And right now, one of the hot markets in the business is mobile.
As more corporate information flows through employee smartphones, companies are paying for hardware and software to protect that data. To meet demand, security firms are developing increasingly secure phones and encryption software. Some of that new technology is now filtering down to the consumer market.
Vic Hyder is a former Navy SEAL, and he does not like the idea that his phone could leak his data — basically, that someone could be spying on him. So, Hyder is talking to me on his Blackphone, which encrypts his phone calls, emails, and texts.
Hyder is the chief strategist at Silent Circle. The software firm has partnered with a Spanish smartphone company to release the Blackphone. No, not a Blackberry, but a Blackphone, which is as secretive as it sounds.
In addition to encrypting communication, the Blackphone comes with a set of apps that do not send data to marketers. In the past, customers have mostly been CEOs, government officials, and celebrities. For instance, Hyder tells me that Shaq has just tweeted about getting a Blackphone. But Hyder says the device is starting to have a broader appeal.
More companies are buying Blackphones for employees, and now individuals can buy them online, too. Blackphone is currently developing an app store that it hopes will make the device more versatile and user-friendly. The company is not alone in the market for secure phones. Samsung has also started offering more security options for consumers.
With all the news of leaks and hacks, people are starting to pay more attention to mobile security, says Tyler Shields, an analyst at Forrester. But most regular people are not losing their sensitive data through hacks. They are losing it through their apps.
Domingo Guerra, the president and founder of Appthority, which assess app security, says most apps make money by gathering and selling personal data.
“Because most apps are free or really cheap,” he says, “developers are almost encouraged to collect data.” To put it in perspective, Guerra says, “almost 99 percent of free apps collect some user data.”
On the whole, Guerra says apps are not getting better at protecting user information. He says some are so faulty that developers do not even know what information is being collected and transmitted to third parties. Of the three million apps his company has surveyed, Guerra says only a fraction are secure.
If that does not change, Guerra says we can expect to continue leaking data, regardless of what device we use.