THE WRAP: EC tackles Web security; Smartphone malware threat grows

Web security and privacy topped the headlines this week, with the European Commission calling for cross-border protection from cyber attacks, Orange pledging to deliver a ‘data dashboard’ to subscribers, US employers demanding access to jobseeker’s Facebook pages, and Google facing scrutiny from French and US authorities.
Neelie Kroes, the EC’s digital agenda commissioner, said more work is needed on cyber attack protection during a roundtable discussion on Internet security. She noted the motivation for attacks has increased, and referenced the ease with which attacks can now be carried out – telling attendees some 25,000 pieces of malware could have been written during their meeting alone.
The commissioner gave the first details of an EC web security strategy during the talk, which puts the onus on member states to develop responses to the growing threat, and establish bodies responsible for sharing information on attacks. The strategy will be unveiled in full during the third quarter.
Kroes’ call to arms came just after the global head of Nokia Siemens security solutions business told Telecoms that smartphones are increasingly at risk of cyber attack, as penetration of the devices grows.
Thorsten Schneider says smartphone malware is increasing as scammers see increasing value in the data stored on the devices, and noted that operators must take the lead in protecting corporate and private customers.
France Telecom chief Stéphane Richard tackled the thorny subject of how consumer’s personal data is handled by telcos and other businesses, pledging to deploy a ‘data dashboard’ allowing subscribers to monitor the information they share with the telco within the next three years.
Richard made the promise during a meeting with Kroes, where he also pledged to launch commercial 4G services in Orange’s European markets by 2015, and 3G in its Middle East and African markets over the same timeframe.
However, all the privacy policies in the world are useless if reports some US employers are asking jobseekers to reveal their Facebook passwords are true.
The move has been necessitated by recent changes to the social network’s privacy policy, which restricts the amount of public access to user’s profiles.
Although the phenomenon currently appears to be confined to public service agencies, particularly law enforcement, John Tanner questioned how long it would be before the practice becomes more widespread.
Google, another company that recently made high-profile changes to its privacy policies, also remained in the spotlight over the move this week. French authorities reportedly gave the search giant three weeks to detail what it will do with data collected on its users as part of the new policy, and to outline the legal justification for the change.
The search firm is also facing questions from the US Federal Trade Commission over claims it planted cookies on rival Apple’s Safari web browser. The FTC is probing whether the move mislead consumers by circumventing Apple’s privacy policy.
Apple, meanwhile, was celebrating after its latest tablet – the iPad 3 – shattered sales records set by the previous model. The firm sold three million units in the first weekend of sales, compared to one million for the iPad 2.
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Apple. First a teardown analysis revealed the firm is making less on each iPad 3 sold than on the iPad 2, then reports claimed the new device runs some 13 deg Fahrenheit hotter than its predecessor while playing games – coming perilously close to prescribed safety limits for laptop PCs in the process. That news was followed by reports the LTE element of the new model has caused some users to burn through their monthly data allowances in a matter of hours.
Tablets made headlines in Thailand this week, with the government approving the purchase of 900,000 Android units for schools for $63.3 million (€47.7 million). The devices will be sourced from Chinese manufacturer Schenzhen Scope, and should be ready in time for the start of the academic year in May.
India provided some mixed news, with government attempts to change its tax laws being slammed by the chairman of Vodafone India. Analjit Singh views the move – which would be back-dated to 1962 – as another attempt to claim a 113 billion rupee (€1.6 billion) tax bill relating to his firm’s 2007 acquisition of Hutchison’s stake in the business, but says the operator won’t exit the market as a result.
On the flip side, Qualcomm finally won a near two year battle over broadband wireless access licenses in India. The Department of Telecom confirmed the licenses have now been awarded to the US firm, clearing the way for its local business to launch TD-LTE services in the country.
And US operator Sprint finally called time on its partnership with troubled 4G startup LightSquared, but lost $65 million in the process.
The carrier exercised a get-out clause in its deal to allow LightSquared to piggyback on its cellular network if the 4G firm failed to gain regulatory approval for its satellite-based set-up.
Analysts say LightSquared runs the risk of bankruptcy if it continues trying to gain clearance for its network, which was stymied by interference issues relating to GPS signals.