FTC Forum Will Tackle Mobile Device Threats

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is continuing to focus its energies on protecting the growing number of consumers using smart phones and other mobile devices. Next up: a public forum to discuss threats to mobile devices.

The FTC will hold a hearing on threats to mobile devices in June

The FTC announced the one-day public forum on Friday and said it hopes to use the event to address problems like “malware, viruses and similar threats facing users of smartphones and other mobile technologies.” The event will take place on June 4th at the FTC’s offices on New Jersey Avenue NW in Washington, D.C.

The public forum is just the latest effort by the nation’s leading watchdog to reign in a free-wheeling mobile application marketplace, and put stronger consumer and privacy protections in place. Earlier this month, the agency released a Staff Report that called on mobile OS, mobile device and mobile application firms to provide clearer guidelines to consumers about how their information will be used, and to build better privacy protections into phones and mobile apps.

“As the use of mobile technology increases at a rapid rate and consumers take advantage of the technology’s benefits in large numbers, it is important to address potential threats that exist today, as well as those that may emerge in the future,” the FTC said in a statement.

The forum is intended to bring together stakeholders such as technology researchers, industry members and academics to explore issues like the security of existing and developing mobile technologies and  how players in the mobile ecosystem – including companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.com – can help protect consumers from mobile security threats.

The FTC said the forum will be used to “inform the Commission about the current mobile security environment and facilitate an exploration of potential challenges that may arise as consumer use of mobile technology continues to grow.”

The Commission is looking for suggestions about specific topics to address, as well as nominations for panel members. Interested parties can e-mail the Commission at: mobilethreats (at) ftc (dot) gov.

Mobile security is a controversial topic within the security world. On the one hand: the population of mobile-specific malware is almost infinitesimally small, compared with the population of malicious programs for, say, the Windows environment. On the other hand, that population is growing fast – with Google’s Android a particular hotspot.  Projections from security and anti-virus firms like McAfee (warning: self-interested statistics ahead!) suggest that mobile devices will be a big target for cyber criminals in the years ahead.

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