There is no billion dollar market for mobile AV
Tuesday, 17 May 2011 19:30

I remember the first time the executive team of one of the Big Three Anti-Virus vendors explained to me their mobile strategy.  It was the new consumer gold mine they were going to tap. "There are over 100 million smart phones and some day mobile devices will outpace all other platforms!" they would exclaim.  You could see the gleam in their eyes.  Consumers would pay $29.95 a year for AV software to protect their phones from spam and infections!  Well, according to Mary Meeker mobile platforms exceeded PC shipments late last year but there is no AV market for smart phones, iPads, and book readers. Why is that?

There are three reasons: diversity, carriers, and competition.   The reason that viruses became the scourge they are today is the monoculture that Microsoft created. Servers, desktops, laptops, and even embedded systems all run the same code. A single vulnerability in one platform is repeated in the others.  A cyber criminal can focus his development efforts on targeting Windows and Internet Explorer and hit the vast majority of computers.   You may have noticed the plethora of platforms in the mobile arena: IOS on Apple products, Android, BlackBerry, Kindle, etc.  An attacker has to target a particular platform.   In the new mobile world you will never have the situation that existed in 2004 when everyone's PC slowed to a halt. They were infected with so much spyware, adware, and worms that they went out and bought new machines.

PCs connected to the Internet are much different than cell phones connected to Verizon, ATT, or T-Mobile.  Your ISP does not much care if you become infected with a virus. That is your problem, not theirs.  But a virus on a phone network could be cataclysmic.  A single infection causing problems on a cell phone generates a call to the carrier's support center or a visit to the outlet store. It costs them money.  They are investing heavily in network protections to make sure that their cell systems stay virus free.  They choose the platforms they support.  If a particular handset is prone to infections they will drop it or force patch updates across their network.

That is not to say that mobile platforms are problem free. All platforms are vulnerable and will see attacks. But the platform owners will respond before a market ever develops for scanning AV software.   Security will be built in as quickly as possible. App stores will pre-scan and verify software before you down load it. You will still need to be able to lock your device if it is lost or stolen. You will want to encrypt data on it. You will have VPN clients for secure communications.  Many of these protections will be bundled with the mobile device as value added features.

Mobile platforms will be components of other security solutions. I have written on how they are the ideal device for two factor authentication.  That industry will take off.   And companies like Mocana will work with platform developers to build security in.   There is money to be made in mobile security, but there will be no AV market for mobile.

Watch my interview with Adrian Turner, CEO of Mocana, here:

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