2017 Recap - Security Moving Into the Spotlight

Posted Dec 2017

In many ways, 2017 was the year when, in broad terms, communications security entered the mainstream. Every month seemed to bring a new story - from the leaking of emails to seemingly disrupt the US election, to the massive data breaches at companies like Yahoo and Equifax, and the global ransomware attack that crippled literally thousands of businesses across the globe.

Telecoms was, of course, not exempt from the tidal wave of bad news and in Germany, a fraud was committed against the customers of one mobile network who found their text authorisation messages had been diverted and their bank accounts drained.

This arrival of network security in the forefront of consumer minds was reflected in the research we undertook with Mobile Squared, a specialist analyst house that takes a deep look at the mobile market, the attitudes of consumers, and the operators’ strategies.

Mobile Squared found that network security was already a factor in many consumer minds. In fact, 14 per cent said they had suffered some kind of mobile network security issue. One in three of those customers said they had either already changed network operator as a result, or that they planned to at their next renewal.

Indeed, when exposed to the security issues currently challenging network operators, such as SS7 signalling fraud, consumers consistently ranked security as the second most important consideration in choosing a network operator – although that is also further evidence that it does take a lot to push price off the top spot in that particular list of factors.

Perhaps of even greater concern for the operators however, was the change in attitudes to smartphone usage that are accompanying the increased security fears. More than a third of consumers said they would stop or significantly reduce their use of a smartphone should they suffer any form of security attack. The erosion of trust in the operator and in value-added services such as mobile banking and payments was clear to see in the research. Any such loss of trust would be detrimental for the new services that technologies such as 5G are designed to deliver. Operator RoI would be seriously affected if subscriber uptake is held back by concerns over the security of the network.

But there’s also plenty of evidence that operators are recognising the need to act and to act quickly. Telecoms.com recently published its 2017 operator survey which revealed that 95 per cent of the operator community saw security as either critical (69pc) or important (25pc) to their company’s overall technology and business strategies over the next five years. Indeed, nearly 80 per cent of the operators expect to increase spend on security in 2018.

So, for operators, maybe that’s the silver lining of this cloud of security concerns. Our research clearly shows that consumers recognise the need for increased network security - something that was probably taken for granted before all the recent exposure. It follows that those operators prepared to talk about the investment they are making to strengthen and secure their networks, might find that they get a better RoI than they expected.