New report from Ponemon Institute, IBM Security and Arxan concerned about getting hacked through mobile, IoT apps

Despite widespread concern about the security of mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) applications, organizations are ill-prepared for the risks they pose, according to a research report issued Wednesday from Ponemon Institute, IBM Security, and application attack prevention and self-protection solutions company Arxan Technologies.

The “2017 Study on Mobile and Internet of Things Application Security” aims to illustrate practices and opinions among IT and IT security practitioners. This study reveals how companies are unprepared for risks created by vulnerabilities in IoT apps, and surveyed 593 IT and IT security practitioners who are involved in the security of mobile and IoT application security, and familiar with their organization’s security practices during the development of these applications and devices.

Organizations are having a more difficult time securing IoT apps. Respondents are slightly more concerned about getting hacked through an IoT app (fifty-eight percent) than a mobile app (fifty-three percent). However, despite their concern, organizations are not mobilizing against this threat. Forty-four percent of respondents say they are taking no steps and eleven percent are unsure if their organization is doing anything to prevent such an attack.

Mobile and IoT applications are distributed, out in the wild, and easy targets for hackers. While mobile apps have been around for some time, most companies have not protected the binary code on these apps, which allows for an easy entry for hackers.

In contrast, IoT is new and growing at a record pace, and while various components of the IoT infrastructure are vulnerable, apps with embedded software in gateways and the cloud are at a greater risk.

Material data breach or cyberattacks have occurred and are reasons for concern. Sixty percent of respondents know with certainty (eleven percent), most likely (fifteen percent) or likely (thirty-four percent) that their organization had a security incident because of an insecure mobile app.

Respondents are less certain whether their organization has experienced a material data breach or cyberattack due to an insecure IoT app. Forty-six percent of respondents say with certainty (four percent), most likely (eleven percent) or likely (thirty-one percent).

The risk of unsecured IoT apps is growing. Respondents report IoT apps are harder to secure (eighty-four percent) versus mobile apps (sixty-nine percent). Additionally, fifty-five percent of respondents say there is a lack of quality assurance and testing procedures for IoT apps.

Despite the risk, there is a lack urgency to address the threat.
Only thirty-two percent of respondents say their organization urgently wants to secure mobile apps and forty-two percent of respondents say it is urgent to secure IoT apps.

“Factors revealed in this study may help to explain the lack of urgency,” said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chair and founder of Ponemon Institute. “Respondents voiced minimal budget allocation, and those responsible for stopping attacks are not in the security function, but rather other lines of business. Without proper budget or oversight, these threats aren’t being taken seriously and it should come as no surprise for mobile and IoT applications to be the culprit of major data breaches to come.”

Only thirty percent of respondents say their organization allocates budget to protect mobile apps and IoT devices. If they had a serious hacking incident, their organizations would consider increasing the budget (fifty-four percent of respondents). Other reasons to increase the budget are if new regulations were issued (forty-six percent of respondents) or media coverage of a serious hacking incident affecting another company occurred (twenty-five percent of respondents).

“Mobile and IoT applications continue to be released at a rapid pace to meet user demand. If security isn’t designed into these apps there could be significant negative impacts,” said Diana Kelley, Global Executive Security Advisor, IBM Security. “Organizations are at risk and cybercriminals know where the soft spots are. Raising awareness of application security in the enterprise is a critically important first step toward a more secure future for businesses and consumers.”

These issues are not insurmountable. Solutions are available and organizations can implement the right tools for proper protection. IBM and Arxan offer an end-to-end enterprise solution to help defend all aspects of mobile and IoT applications.

“The numbers don’t add up. While 60 percent of respondents confirm that their organization has already experienced a data breach caused by an insecure mobile app, and more than half are very concerned about likelihood of an attack, 44 percent are taking no steps to protect their apps,” said Mandeep Khera, chief marketing officer of Arxan. “The laissez-faire attitude toward the security of mobile and IoT applications needs to come to an end and organizations must start emphasizing security in the development process in order to prevent a detrimental attack. One breach can set a company back dramatically in brand damage, financial loss and recovery costs. You have to think of the old idiom — penny wise, pound foolish.”

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