Attacks/Breaches

10/23/2017
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Unpatched Bugs Rampant on Mobile Devices in Financial Services Firms

More than a quarter of mobile devices used by financial services employees carry known vulnerabilities, according to a recent report.

Many financial services employees are toting around unpatched mobile devices, putting their companies and customers at risk of a data breach, a recent report found.

More than 25% of mobile devices used by financial services employees had unpatched vulnerabilities, according to Symantec's Q2 2017 Mobile Threat Intelligence Report: Mobility and Finance.

The data, gleaned from Symantec's endpoint mobile security software and other sources, also found that 15% of employees' mobile devices at financial services institutions had been exposed to a malicious network, while three in every thousand devices were infected with malware.

"If I read this report and I was Procter & Gamble, I would be asking my bank, what you are doing to protect my data when your executives are connecting to suspicious WiFi networks, or how many of your employees have phones with malware?" says Varun Kohli, a senior director at Symantec. "I would be asking these questions because my data is at risk."

And although corporate customers may find there is little they can do to protect themselves from the actions - or lack of actions - that their financial services company is taking, Kohli says that may change in the future.

"I hear enterprises are asking their software vendors to take certain steps to protect their information, but I have not heard this of the banks," Kohli says. "But companies need to also ask this of their business partners, too."

Patching Problem

Although Apple and Google may regularly patch vulnerabilities, employees at financial institutions may be unaware of the patch notifications. In part, Apple is able to push its patches out relatively easily since it controls both the hardware and software, whereas the task is more challenging for Android.

When Google issues a patch, it has to be delivered to the device manufacturer, which then performs its own version of the update if it decides to issue a patch for the flaw at all, Kohli says. 

Other findings in the report include a general lack of good mobile security hygiene. For example, more than 13% of mobile devices used by financial services employees lack the latest major OS version, while 99% do not have the latest minor update issued by Google or Apple, the report found.

Some 4.6% of iOS users in this sector have yet to install the latest mobile operating system, compared to 47.8% for Android, according to the report.

Despite those results, the financial services industry as well as the healthcare sector tend to institute more frequent updates than all industries overall, Kohli says. He notes both industries suffer the most attacks because of their valuable information and data and, as a result, more is spent to secure those industries and the devices they use.

"They are early adopters of security; but even then, we are seeing problems," Kohli says. "I was very surprised at the results. I would have expected the number in the financial services industry to be lower."

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Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

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