The growth in the mobile app market has been nothing short of spectacular.
This completely new market has developed from scratch to a potential market value of $100 billion by 2017 according to industry analysts, with the average smartphone user having 41 downloaded apps on their device in 2012 according to research by Neilsen. Rather like the number of blogs or websites, numbers cannot do justice to the volume of apps available and any estimate of the numbers would be completely meaningless and outdated in days.
Mobile users have embraced not only free but also paid for apps, yet users will not pay any attention to where the app comes from and who publishes it. Users probably should because apps represent perhaps one of the most effective means through which fraud can be perpetrated on mobile users. This was recently highlighted by research from Lookout that was reported on the BBC. Mobile viruses that steal money have grown in the past nine months from 29% to 62% of all mobile malware.
It is no surprise to hear that fraudsters are now looking to monetise the mobile app industry – where there is brass there is muck after all. The worrying issue for users is one of trust: the apps industry is so young that it is difficult to know who, amongst thousands of developers, can be trusted and who cannot.
The other issue is one of transaction size. The article on the BBC hints at viruses surreptitiously adding unexpected charges to a user’s bill. The relatively low cost of apps means that users are less likely to notice this kind of micro-fraud – let’s face it most people will notice an absence of £69 from their bank account quicker than 69p. More pertinently users that are simply keen to grab the latest app are unlikely to check the terms and conditions that are attached. Users might therefore being duped into paying on-going costs for an app each and every month unwittingly.
At some point during the 1990 and 2000s email users understood the message that it was a bad idea to open certain attachments from people that did not know. During the 2010s mobile users will need to learn the same vigilance – sadly on the way many will be duped and conned.