For the past several weeks, it has not been a secret that Alcatel-Lucent Ventures spin-out, Ottawa, Canada-based Kindsight (News - Alert), would be demonstrating its Kindsight Security Services platform at the new Mobile Security solution at Mobile World Congress (in the Alcatel-Lucent booth, Hall 6 – booth # 6C23), and at the RSA Conference and Security B-Sides in San Francisco. What is no longer a secret is that the solution is being offered under the name Kindsight Mobile Security.
As the press release for the introduction notes, “Kindsight Mobile Security combines the company’s Network Intrusion (News - Alert) Detection System (NIDS-8800) and Alert Reporting Cluster (ARC) platforms with a lightweight and easy-to-use Mobile Security App to provide complete protection. With this approach, Kindsight Mobile Security can detect threats both in the network and on the device to quickly alert the subscriber of the threat and to help them remove the malicious app.”
Why the buzz?
There has been building interest in the entire area of mobile security, as well as in Kindsight, for quite some time. Smartphone and tablet adoption has exploded almost overnight and thus has drawn the increased attention of bad actors. How big is the problem? Kindsight says its studies have shown that while four out of five PC consumers have up-to-date antivirus software, over half have reported being infected with malware in the past year. Back in December of 2010, the company released a study of a trial it did with 200,000 subscribers that showed in a 30-day time period, 30 percent of homes were infected or were at serious risk of infection of: spyware (47 percent), cybercrime (26 percent), online identity theft (21 percent) and computer virus (six percent).
More importantly, as Brendan Ziolo, VP, Marketing, Kindsight stated in the press release, “Last quarter, our Security Labs measured a 400 percent increase in Android (News - Alert) malware, so it’s obvious that a mobile security offering is needed…It’s very easy for cybercriminals to repackage their malware to avoid detection by anti-virus apps. That’s why it’s essential to combine network-based malware detection with a mobile security app to provide an additional layer of protection against mobile malware. ”
How it works
The Kindsight NIDS is a signature-based system. It offers accurate detection of malware with very low false positive rates. It uses exploit and spyware signatures from Kindsight Security Labs as well as several best of breed partners and botnet command and control (C&C) blacklists.
It also should be noted that it also uses the Google push engine and takes up very little bandwidth to run. The reason for its light footprint is that it is not continuously pinging the mobile phone for a status change because the anti-virus app provides native protection. It becomes fully engaged when a threat is detected in the network or the app finds something malicious in a scan. Like the PC world, the number and types of attacks are proliferating, signatures of the mobile solution detect:
- Botnet command and control communications
- Trojan backdoor connections
- Attempts to infect others (e.g. exploits)
- Hijacked browsers and spyware infections
- Hacking and distributed denial of service (DDoS) activity
- Excessive e-mail
The app, as seen below is intuitive and user friendly:
As Deborah Kish, principal research analyst at Gartner (News - Alert) observes, said, “Generally, there’s a lack of awareness by consumers on mobile security issues…Consumers will download apps without scanning for malware or even checking where they come from, which can put their device and even personal data at risk. Mobile operators need to raise awareness of these security issues and to leverage their unique position in the network to provide complete security solutions to their subscribers.”
In speaking with Ziolo and Security Architect Kevin McNamee prior to the launch, it was difficult not to become both a little paranoid as to the trajectory of malware on mobile as shown in the Kindsight measurements, and anxious to have my 4G LTE provider Verizon (News - Alert) Wireless offer it to me as a service. And putting paranoia aside, it is the monetization aspect of all of this that goes to the heart of the matter.
Given the attacks on their engagement relationships with customers in general by OTTs and device-based applications fueled ecosystems and ARPU pressures, mobile operators need a game-changer for asserting the primacy of their relevance. Security, aka “peace of mind,” especially as not just apps in general but location and mobile wallet ones proliferate, makes sense as a nice way to leverage what is a unique position in the value creation/value capture chain.
Zilo and McNamee were agnostic as to whether the solution should be offered as free or as a value-added one based on the unique characteristics of markets and business models that are in place around the world. However, not surprisingly, they do believe that security is a true value-added.
I happen to believe that in a risky world, where protection is a necessity not just for end users but for the entire online ecosystem to remain a trusted place of interactions and transactions, mobile operators could offer the app with network service for a small monthly fee. There are other options for monetization, such as bundling it into an up-sell with other services or making it advertising supported, but that said, they need to offer it or something like it sooner rather than later.
In fact, they should do so than for no other reason than allowing me to remove from my device malware that is constantly making demands on the network and pushing me closer to my data cap, which is only going to go lower while prices go higher as operators continued to be squeezed. The bottom line is that mobile security is not an option and operators need to get on it while the getting is good.